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Coronavirus LATEST: What you need to know about the outbreak in Sweden

Coronavirus LATEST: What you need to know about the outbreak in Sweden
Swedish health authorities at the press conference on Tuesday. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Here's how the coronavirus is developing in Sweden.

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August 26th:

Another three deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus have been confirmed in Sweden, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,817. A total of 2,564 corona patients have been admitted to intensive care since the start of the outbreak and there have been 87,072 confirmed cases as of today’s update from the Public Health Agency.

Sweden has seen a sharp drop in confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths over the summer, but with colder weather on the way as well as the start of a new academic year, will it be able to maintain the positive trend? Here’s The Local’s reporter Catherine Edwards’ analysis.

Sweden has extended its general advice against non-essential travel, but a further three countries (Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Romania) will be exempted from the warning from August 27th. Read more here.

Stockholm health authorities are warning that significant savings will have to be made in the wake of the corona pandemic, as one of the region’s major hospitals prepares to lay off hundreds of staff.

August 25th:

One new death of a person who tested positive for the coronavirus was reported in Sweden, bringing the total death toll to 5,814. There have been 86,891 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak and in total 2,563 corona patients have been admitted to intensive care over the course of the epidemic.

Thousands of people in Sweden will be contacted by health authorities in the coming days after they received false positives on coronavirus self-tests that have been used in countries around the world. You can read more about it here, but the main thing to be aware of is that you will be contacted by Thursday if you’re affected.

Inaccurate test results were discovered in nine Swedish regions and date back to March: Stockholm, Västra Götaland, Gävleborg, Västerbotten, Västmanland, Dalarna, Västernorrland, Sörmland and Blekinge. But not everyone is affected, so if you are not contacted it means your test was likely accurate, said the Public Health Agency. Everyone who is affected will be offered a free antibody test by their regional health services.

The inaccuracy was discovered in two laboratories in Sweden, which carried out quality control tests and found that around 3,700 people had received what the Public Health Agency described as “likely false positives”.

“Two Swedish laboratories have discovered deficiencies in a CE-marked so-called test kit that was used to show if you have an ongoing Covid-19 infection. Due to the error, the test method has not been able to distinguish between low levels of Covid-19 virus and negative samples,” said the Public Health Agency in a statement.

It added that it had reported the self-test kits, which it said had been exported from China to several countries around the world, to other European health authorities as well as the World Health Organisation.

From August 24th, people who are at high risk of serious illness from the coronavirus can claim for compensation if the pandemic meant they missed work. Here’s what that means for you.

In case you missed it: The coronavirus pandemic was of course the main topic in the traditional summer speeches given by Sweden’s prime minister and main opposition party leader. Both agreed that adjustments were needed both to the coronavirus strategy and the welfare system long-term, but their contrasting tones showed the increasing conflict in Sweden’s political landscape. We’ve analysed their speeches here.

August 24th:

Another three deaths of people with a positive coronavirus tests have been confirmed in Sweden, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,813. There have been 86,721 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak and in total 2,561 corona patients have been admitted to intensive care over the course of the epidemic.

The R number, one of the key indicators of how the coronavirus is spreading in a country rose in Sweden in early August, but health authorities say it is again falling. You can read the latest report here.

Sweden expects to have as many as 18 million doses of coronavirus vaccine by next year, according to the country’s vaccine coordinator. “If these vaccines work and are safe, it’s possible that we will have vaccinated everyone who wants it next year, or at the start of 2022,” Richard Bergström told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

 

August 21st:

Another five people have been confirmed dead after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,810. There have been 86,068 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak and in total 2,556 corona patients have been admitted to intensive care over the course of the epidemic.

Negotiations to hammer out Sweden’s next budget are under way between the government and its allies in parliament, and it is likely to be a much more extensive budget than in ordinary times. Here’s what we know.

Sweden’s government on Friday said that the limit on public events would remain at 50, but that it is looking into granting exceptions for seated events. This means footballers may no longer have to play in front of empty seats.

The spread of coronavirus infection continues to vary between regions in Sweden, with an increase in the infection rate in Skåne in the south.

Europe can combat the new coronavirus without full lockdowns now that authorities are better prepared and have gained knowledge about how to fight it in recent months, the World Health Organisation has said.

August 20th:

Another three people have been confirmed dead after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, which means a total of 5,805 people have now died. There have been 85,810 confirmed cases of the virus in Sweden since the start of the outbreak and 2,555 corona patients have been admitted to intensive care.

The situation across Sweden varies. In Stockholm and Sörmland, two of the regions that were quite seriously affected by the outbreak this spring, the number of new cases has reached a plateau of sorts. There are currently 29 corona patiens in intensive care in Sweden (down from a peak of more than 500 in April), and 12 out of 21 regions have no corona patients at all in intensive care.

But in Skåne in southern Sweden, on the other hand, the number of new cases is currently on the increase, including both mild infections and more serious cases. You can find the weekly data for each region here.

The Swedish government has signed off on an EU deal with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to provide six million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus if it wins approval from regulators.

Local authorities in the Gothenburg area have said that there are still issues with crowding, especially in restaurants in the city and public transport in coastal areas. Read more here.

August 19th:

Another 12 people have been confirmed dead after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, which means a total of 5,802 people have now died. There have been 85,411 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak and 2,553 corona patients have been admitted to intensive care in Sweden.

Net migration fell to its lowest levels since 2005 in the first half of the year, new figures show. Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions are a big factor behind this. We’ve explained the figures here.

The population in Sweden grew at its slowest rate in 15 years in the first half of the year, the same figures show. In fact, a total of 51,405 people died in Sweden between January and June, the largest number of deaths in those months since 1869 (when 55,431 people died, although Sweden’s population was much smaller at the time).

Swedish doctors suspect a newborn baby was infected with the coronavirus during the mother’s pregnancy, reports Dagens Medicin. If confirmed, it would be the first known case in Sweden.

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said today. We covered her press conference here.

August 18th:

The pandemic continues to affect many aspects of our lives, especially for those of us living in other countries from our friends and families. Today, we’ve got two articles written in response to reader questions, which you can read below:

If you’ve got a question you’d like us to look into or ask on your behalf, please get in touch with our editorial team. We’re a small team, but we read all the emails we receive and do our best to help you get your voices heard.

Most travellers from Sweden are no longer being urged to self-quarantine when they visit the Netherlands, after Dutch authorities lifted their restrictions for all regions except one.

At today’s press conference, Public Health Agency director Johan Carlson said: “The question of face masks is not dead” and that the agency may yet recommend mask-wearing in certain situations. Read his remarks on the issue in full here.

A further three deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the past 24 hours, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,790.

There have been 85,219 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak, and 2,551 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

According to the National Board of Health and Welfare, three regions are reporting an upward trend in the number of people admitted to hospital (but not intensive care) with Covid-19. A total of 31 people were receiving intensive care treatment for the virus as of Tuesday, and a further 176 were receiving care in other hospital wards. The number of people needing hospital care has increased slightly in for example Stockholm.

“The Swedish situation is such that we had from the start of April a falling spread of infection. The curves [of confirmed cases] make it appear that the turning point came much later, but this is a curve that reflects the rather late access to tests in many regions, in fact the infection rate was lower in May and June,” said the Public Health Agency’s Director General Johan Carlson at the authorities’ press briefing today.

“We have a spread of infection that fell successively during the summer and has now almost levelled off at a very low level, but still a level that is significant and must be dealt with.”

He also noted that in some of the regions that have seen big spikes in cases, including Skåne and Västra Götaland, many of the people testing positive for the virus are tourists and therefore not officially registered in those regions. In Gotland, for example, 40 percent of those testing positive for the coronavirus were tourists.

“This was rather expected, since the modelling we had showed that there would be quite a high increase in tourist areas,” he said, adding that the situation was significantly better than what had been predicted.

Carlson also noted that in Europe in recent weeks, “a large number of countries that had low (rates of infection) after lockdowns have had a higher spread of infection than Sweden does now”. He said that it was “concerning” that there was no clear correlation between the measures used by countries to fight the virus, and the current spread of infection.

He said that the government had ordered the Public Health Agency to look into possible measures and predictions for the autumn.

“We, Swedes, have succeeded by following the three basic rules: keep distance, follow good hand hygiene above all, and don’t spend time around other people when you are sick or showing any symptoms. In this way, we have pushed the spread of infection down to a rate in line with or even below the rate in many other European countries. This doesn’t mean we can sit back, but we naturally have big risks in our country too, both for local outbreaks and more continued spread of infection,” he said.

The agency is looking at measures such as ways of handling local cluster outbreaks quickly, test-and-trace systems, and other ways of preventing infection.

The Civil Contingenies Agency raised the fact that their regular surveys and reports from regions show a growing “corona fatigue” among the population.

“There are more people out and about, more situations creating crowding, more people who maybe can’t be bothered to keep going. This isn’t about knowledge of how people should be behaving during the pandemic; everyone knows, I think,” said the agency’s Svante Werger.

August 17th:

Another four people have been confirmed dead after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,787. There have been 85,045 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak, and 2,546 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

At the national level, Sweden’s coronavirus infection rate has generally fallen over the summer, but the picture varies across the country. Here’s a close look at the situation in each of the 21 regions and 290 municipalities.

August 14th:

Another seven people have been confirmed dead after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,783. Since the start of the outbreak, 2,541 corona patients have been admitted to intensive care and there have in total been 84,292 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Public Health Agency’s figures.

An Iranian student planning on starting university in Sweden this autumn has told The Local he and many others risk being unable to take up their places after the Swedish embassy cancelled their visa interview appointments.

August 13th:

Another two people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,776. There have been 83,852 confirmed cases of the virus so far, and 2,538 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

Sweden on Thursday updated its temporary ban on entry into Sweden from outside the EU, removing Morocco from a list of countries exempt from the ban. Click here for more information about the entry ban.

Sweden’s medical university Karolinska Institutet (KI) will recommend staff and students to wear face masks in certain situations when they return to campus, going against Sweden’s general guidelines. Here’s why.

Sweden’s national economic forecaster expects the country’s economy to recover almost half of the ground lost at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic by the end of the year, as EU trading partners lift lockdowns and industrial production rebounds. The Local spoke with the institute’s forecasting chief in this interview.

Internal emails obtained by a Swedish journalist shed light on how the concept of herd immunity was discussed by Nordic epidemiologists in mid-March. But do they prove anything? Read this and make up your own mind.

August 12th:

The publication of emails between Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell and his predecessor Johan Giesecke has sparked a stir in Sweden this week. Here’s what the emails reveal – and what they don’t.

Another four deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were confirmed in Sweden today, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest data. That brings the country’s total deaths to 5,774.

Meanwhile, the number of corona patients admitted to intensive care rose to 2,537 (since the start of the outbreak) and the number of confirmed cases of the virus to 83,455.

Buses and trains are expected to get busier in Sweden next week, as schools start and more people return from their summer holidays. Here’s what public transport operators in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö predict.

Next week, Sweden’s ‘gymnasium’ upper secondary schools for over 16-year-olds will restart physical classes, five months after they were closed in March. We have taken a look at what will be different.

While we’re on the topic of schools, this article isn’t specifically about the coronavirus, but may be of interest to international parents: What you need to know (and expect) about sending your children to school in Sweden.

Sweden’s foreign ministry has lifted its warning against non-essential travel to another two countries: Austria and Liechtenstein (the decision comes into force tomorrow). But the warning was extended today for the EU countries that haven’t already had the warning lifted, as well as the UK, until August 26th. Read more in this article.

August 11th:

Another four deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were confirmed in Sweden today, bringing the total death toll to 5,770. There have been 83,126 cases of the virus so far, and 2,533 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

Sweden has been seeing a slight uptick in the number of new infections among young adults, although the uptick seems to have slowed down, according to state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who still stressed the importance of following health and safety recommendation. Sweden is still seeing fewer new coronavirus deaths and a low number of new intensive care patients, but there is a concern that the number of cases, albeit mild cases, is increasing and how that will impact the rest of society.

Swedish schools are set to reopen after the summer holidays in the coming weeks, after keeping schools for under-16s open during the pandemic. We want to hear from international parents how you feel about back-to-school season in times of corona.

August 10th:

Another three deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were added to Sweden’s total death toll, which now stands at 5,766, today. There have been 82,972 confirmed cases of the virus so far, and 2,533 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

The Local’s freelance journalist Richard Orange has interviewed Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell about the next phase of the pandemic. Here’s what Tegnell had to say about the path ahead for Sweden.

You may have noticed more articles lately by external writers, not just by our two in-house journalists. That’s because we have managed to recruit more freelance journalists thanks to everyone who has signed up as  members of The Local. Here’s another example of a column we were only able to publish thanks to you.

The weekend heatwave drew crowds to several Swedish summer hot spots in huge numbers, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what it looked like in pictures.

August 7th:

No new deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were reported in Sweden today; in fact, the total death toll was revised downward by three, to 5,763. Here’s what we know about that so far.

The number of intensive care cases since the start of the outbreak currently stands at 2,527 and the number of people who have tested positive 82,323, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest statistics.

The EU Commission has called on governments to allow couples separated by coronavirus travel restrictions to reunite, following five months of separation for many in cross-border relationships.

Only a small proportion of the care home residents who fell ill with the coronavirus in Sweden received treatment in hospital, according to newly published data from the National Board of Health and Welfare.

Swedish healthcare professionals must be careful not to dismiss the experience of coronavirus patients since we still know so little about the virus, writes Lisa Bjurwald in her latest column for The Local.

August 6th:

Another six deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were confirmed today, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,766. The number of intensive care cases since the start of the outbreak altogether is currently at 2,526, and 41 corona patients are currently on ventilators in intensive care.

The latter figure is down from more than 500 at the peak of the outbreak in Sweden, so in terms of serious cases the situation is looking much better than it did earlier this year. But there’s also potentially bad news: after dropping sharply this summer, there has been a slight uptick in infections in the past couple of weeks.

Most of the new cases are people aged around 20-29, who usually (but not always) develop only mild symptoms. The number of new cases among elderly people, a risk group, is currently low. However, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell pointed out that the increase among young adults is still cause for concern.

“It’s a bad sign, because this is how it started once upon a time and there is a clear risk that it starts to spread in that group but then spreads to other groups that could get significantly more ill,” he told today’s press conference, urging young adults to also keep following health and safety recommendations.

The southern Swedish region of Skåne will soon be ready to offer antibody testing for the coronavirus to most of the adult population. Read more here.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected how people spent the summer in Sweden, with fewer and longer trips, according to mobile data.

Sweden has extended its guidance to work from home, if possible, throughout the autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you’ve been hunched over a kitchen table or sofa for the past five months, you may be wondering if this entitles you to your own office equipment. We’ve answered the question here.

August 5th:

Another 13 deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were confirmed today, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,760. The number of intensive care cases since the start of the outbreak currently stands at 2,524 and the total number of confirmed cases rose to 81,540.

A Swedish study highlights the efficacy of face masks in reducing the spread of infectious diseases, with its authors saying masks should be recommended in Sweden. The Local spoke with one of the authors — read the interview here. But here’s what the Public Health Agency said in response when we asked.

The global situation around travel during the pandemic is complicated to say the least. There are many reasons not to travel overseas at the moment, but if you decide to, here’s a look at the rules in place for travel from Sweden (including an interactive map).

So, you’ve received a positive test for coronavirus antibodies, but aren’t sure exactly what it means for you. Here’s what you should know about returning to the office.

August 4th:

A further three deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus were reported today, bringing the total death toll to 5,747. The number of intensive care cases in Sweden since the start of the outbreak rose meanwhile to 2,523 and the total number of confirmed cases reached 81,181.

Just 38 people were being treated in intensive care for the coronavirus as of today, according to the National Board of Health and Welfare.

At today’s press conference, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell reiterated the new guidance to continue working from home if possible.

This guideline is currently in place up until December 31st and does not mean that people should work from home all the time, but should do so to the extent possible, among other things in order to reduce crowding on public transport for people commuting to socially important jobs. Tegnell said that it is extra important for employers to live up to their obligation to ensure a good working environment when more people are working remotely.

Now is not the time to introduce new measures, but the Public Health Agency does not rule out considering face masks if there is a renewed increase in infections, Tegnell said in response to a question from The Local.

August 3rd:

Only one new death was reported today, which means 5,744 people have so far been confirmed as having died after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden. However, the number is usually low at the start of the week and peaks mid-week, due to a delay when Sweden’s 21 administrative regions report their data.

Since the start of the outbreak, 2,520 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care, and there have been 81,012 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Public Health Agency’s website.

Sweden has updated its list of countries that are exempt from a non-EU entry ban. This means that from August 5th, travellers from the following countries will be able to travel to Sweden for any purpose, including leisure:  Australia, Georgia, Japan, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. Read more here.

With Sweden’s summer holiday season nearing its end, many employees may be wondering what ‘back to work’ will look like this year, when a large part of the working population has been working from home since March. But can your boss force you to return to the office? We answer that question in this article.

Travellers to certain countries from Sweden are required to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test in order to enter the country. So how do you go about it? Here are some of your options, with or without a Swedish personal ID number.

July 31st:

A further four deaths have been confirmed of people who tested positive for the coronavirus, meaning the total death toll in Sweden has reached 5,743. A total of 2,515 people have been or are being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care, and 80,422 people have tested positive since the start of the outbreak.

As of tomorrow, Denmark will be open to travel for residents from all of Sweden — but there are still restrictions you need to be aware of. This article explains what you need to know.

Face masks have emerged as one of the polarising topics of the coronavirus crisis, with Sweden continuing to advise against their use by the general public. How does the Swedish stance stack up against the rest of the world? Here’s what the rules are on face masks in Sweden, compared with the rest of Europe and the world, and what organisations like the WHO and EU agencies have said on the subject.

After a spring of remote learning, universities and higher education institutions across Sweden now have the green light to welcome students back to campus, but restrictions still apply, and they vary between universities.

Swedish truck maker Scania plans to axe 5,000 jobs — ten percent of its global workforce — as it attempts to recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus. 

And here’s a reminder of the coronavirus rules and recommendations that remain in place in Sweden. They apply to everyone, whether you’re a resident, visitor or tourist.

July 30th:

Another nine people have been confirmed dead after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,739. A total of 2,515 people have been or are being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care, and 80,100 people have tested positive since the start of the outbreak.

Sweden’s health minister and public health agency have announced updated guidance for the autumn, with no major changes, but including a continued recommendation to work from home and avoid public transport if possible. Here’s the latest update.

As most of the world either orders or recommends the use of face masks, Nordic nations are the remaining holdouts. This article by the AFP news agency takes a closer look at the subject.

There is increasing crowding along Sweden’s West Coast, especially in pubs and restaurants, the Västra Götaland region has warned.

A new study has revealed how European countries and major cities compared when it comes to death rates during the coronavirus pandemic. These charts help explain the situation across Europe.

Sweden has lifted its advice against non-essential travel to four more countries as of July 30th, including Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway, as well as Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Here’s the latest.

July 29th:

It is now six months since we published our first article about the coronavirus here on The Local. Since then, we have published more than 430 articles about the outbreak in Sweden. Our editor writes about our editorial decisions, and what we are doing to develop the site in a new letter to readers and members.

Sweden has lifted its advice against non-essential travel to four more countries as of July 30th, including Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway. The other two countries were Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Read the latest here.

A further 28 people have been reported dead in Sweden after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total death toll to 5,730. The total number of confirmed cases reached 79,782, with 2,511 people having been treated in intensive care for Covid-19.

Sweden’s traditionally long summer holidays are coming to an end, but public health advice is still to work from home if you can. But can your boss force you to return to work, or share the results of an antibody test? We’ve answered that and other questions around your rights as an employee during the pandemic.

Another sign of the gradual return to normal is that Stockholm’s public transport operator has resumed ticket controls today, after pausing them early on in the pandemic. Remember that the official recommendations still ask you to avoid public transport during rush hour. Ticket inspectors will have hand sanitiser, wear gloves, and keep an arm’s length distance from all passengers. 

July 28th:

Sweden reported two further deaths of people who had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total death toll to 5,702.

The total number of coronavirus cases requiring intensive care reached 2,506, while the total number of confirmed cases rose to 79,494.

In Sweden’s intensive care units, 46 people were being treated for Covid-19 with ventilators, while six of Sweden’s 21 regions had no Covid-19 patients in intensive care, up from two last week.

Also at the bi-weekly press conference, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that the recent fall in infection spread meant that travel to and from Sweden would soon be easier as the infection rate is rapidly falling and meeting the criteria set by other countries.

Tegnell said the Public Health Agency was “continuously following” the debate on face mask usage to prevent the disease. Two factors which might change its recommendation, he said, were stronger scientific evidence that masks have a positive effect, and/or if the infection rate increases in Sweden.

He said he didn’t see any point in wearing a face mask in Sweden at the moment, but it might be more suitable in countries which have had strict lockdowns and have since encouraged the public to gradually return to normal life, for example working from offices again.

“The protection level for getting sick is very questionable and the protection level for infecting other people is also questionable, it’s always better to stay at home when you’re sick,” he said.

The two key messages from the authorities were to continue following public health recommendations (in particular, staying at home when sick and keeping distance from others in public) but not being afraid to seek medical care if needed, since the healthcare sector does have capacity.

Sweden’s current recommendations include continuing to work at home if possible, limiting social contacts and avoiding large gatherings, and Tegnell said there were no plans to change this in the short term.

One of Sweden’s most vocal critics of the national coronavirus strategy has claimed that a lack of critical thinking among both health agencies and Swedish media created a “sect-like” environment leading to unnecessary deaths. Read more here.

July 27th:

A further three people have been reported dead in Sweden after testing positive for the coronavirus, which means Sweden’s total death toll now stands at 5,700. There have been 79,395 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak, and the number of coronavirus patients who have been or are being treated in intensive care remained unchanged over the weekend (2,504).

Sweden has been far worse affected by the coronavirus outbreak than its Nordic neighbours, but over the past few weeks several key measures have been falling sharply. What’s the reason for the apparently sudden change? We took a look at the situation behind the statistics in this in-depth article.

International students face an anxious wait to find out whether or not they can stay in Sweden this autumn, as some coronavirus measures may affect their right to a residence permit. Here’s the latest.

Several of Stockholm’s restaurants are still too crowded according to the local authority, despite measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These figures show the situation in Stockholm and Gothenburg.

The airline SAS insists it will refund passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis after coming in for criticism from the Swedish consumer agency.

Governments are fast losing support for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak from a public that widely believes death and infection figures to be higher than statistics show, a survey of six countries including Sweden revealed on Saturday.

We have launched a new series on The Local to profile some of our readers and how their small businesses have coped with the coronavirus. You can read the first articles here. We would love to hear what you think, and if you have a story to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected].

July 24th:

A further 21 people have died in Sweden after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 5,697. The number of confirmed cases rose to 78,997 today and the number of coronavirus patients who have been or are being treated in intensive care rose by two new patients to 2,504.

July 23rd:

A further nine people have died in Sweden after testing positive for the coronavirus. That brings the death toll to 5,676 since the start of the outbreak, while the number of confirmed cases rose to 78,763.

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was asked when it might be possible for public gatherings of over 50 people to take place again, and whether it might be possible to make exceptions for certain industries or types of events.

“We are looking at what to do in autumn,” he said. “At the same time, it’s precisely large events that have been linked to outbreaks quite often. As things are today, it’s hard to differentiate large events from each other” from the point of view of infection risk, he said. 

Also at today’s press conference, the National Board of Health and Welfare summarised the new guidelines for visits to care homes. There is still a nationwide ban on visits to residential care homes, which means no one has the right to visit their relatives, but the homes can make exceptions based on individual assessments — taking into account measures they can take to reduce infection risk like having meetings outside or using plexiglass screens, as well as the necessity of the visit. 

The National Board of Health and Welfare recently expanded its guidelines meaning that if a visitor has a recent and reliable positive test for coronavirus antibodies, this could also be a reason to make exceptions to the ban, based on research showing antibodies likely provide protection against re-infection. But even visitors with antibodies need to be symptom-free and follow the recommendations in place, including keeping a distance from all others, so that means no hugs. 

July 22nd:

Another 21 people have died in Sweden after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,667. Two more corona patients were added to the number of people who have been or are being treated in intensive care (2,498 to date) and confirmed cases of the virus rose to 78,504.

European authorities now recommend that staff and passengers alike wear face masks if social distancing cannot be maintained on trains, but no such requirement currently exists in Sweden. But some public transport companies have started handing them out anyway. Here’s what we know about the guidelines.

How many coronavirus cases are there in your local area? The situation varies significantly between Sweden’s 290 municipalities, so we have created new maps that show where and how fast it’s spreading.

Sweden’s most lavish party of the year – the Nobel Prize banquet – will not go ahead this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what organisers had to say about their reason for cancelling it.

July 21st:

Swedish health authorities have outlined three possible scenarios for how the coronavirus could develop in Sweden, and how many lives a future second wave could claim. Here’s what we know so far.

A further seven people have died in Sweden after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 5,646. The total number of intensive care cases saw no change compared to July 20th, while confirmed cases saw a slight increase from 78,048 to 78,166. 

Just 53 people are currently receiving intensive care treatment for Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals, but at the bi-weekly press conference authorities reiterated that the situation varies between regions and that it remains crucial for everyone to follow guidelines such as staying home if sick and keeping distance in public in order to keep the numbers moving in the right direction.

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell noted that so far, there are no recorded instances of people catching Covid-19 twice, “so our assessment is that if you catch Covid-19 you are immune, even if you do not develop antibodies”.

“The risk for being infected yourself or infected others is almost zero. So we think that you can socialise with others, including those in risk groups,” he said, but added that the general public does need to keep following social distancing and other guidelines to reduce the level of infection.

On the island of Gotland, authorities have recruited four medieval knights to help ensure people follow social distancing guidelines. Dressed in period costume, the ‘Covid knights’ are patrolling Visby on horseback with messages including “wash your hands often” and “keep your distance”.

July 20th:

Another 20 people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll since the start of the outbreak to 5,639. Meanwhile, confirmed cases rose to 78,048, and the number of corona patients who have been or are being treated in intensive care stood at 2,496 on Monday.

This map shows how the various Swedish regions have been affected:

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Sweden’s Public Health Agency is changing its coronavirus recommendations to make it easier to make patients themselves responsible for tracking down anyone they may have infected. Here’s what we know so far.

July 17th:

Sweden has updated its rules about who is and isn’t allowed to travel here from outside the EU. You can read the latest news here.

The Public Health Agency has warned that rural areas popular with tourists are particularly vulnerable to a second wave of the coronavirus this summer. Read more here.

Denmark is set to open its borders to another three Swedish regions, starting Saturday.

They’re better than most people at dealing with distance, but could never have predicted the current circumstances. The Local spoke to five readers navigating a cross-border relationship during a pandemic.

Another 26 people were reported dead with coronavirus today, bringing the total death toll since the start of the outbreak to 5,619. Meanwhile, confirmed cases rose to 77,281, but the figures of new intensive care admissions are still low, with another three intensive care cases reported in the last 24 hours.

July 16th:

The number of coronavirus patients in hospital in Stockholm has fallen below 100 for the first time since early March. There are currently 17 coronavirus patients in intensive care in the Swedish capital region, and 85 coronavirus patients in hospital altogether. Read more here.

Sweden reported a further 21 deaths of people who had coronavirus, bringing the total death toll since the start of the outbreak to 5,593. Meanwhile, confirmed cases rose to 76,877, but the figures of new intensive care admissions are still low, with only one new intensive care case reported in the last 24 hours. 

As of today, there are just 73 people being treated for the coronavirus in the country’s ICUs. Five regions have no patients in intensive care for the virus, and four have only one, the National Board of Health and Welfare’s Taha Alexandersson said at today’s press conference.

The board also published new information about how long people receive treatment for the coronavirus.

Around 12,400 patients have received hospital care for the virus and been discharged. Of these, around 950 received care for 30 days or more, and Alexandersson noted that this long treatment time presented a challenge for the healthcare sector.

“When we talk about a long period of care, we have to ensure that there is enough staff,” she said.

The Public Health Agency’s Johan Carlson said that the agency was looking to see if it needed to update its recommendations over the summer, following reports of crowding. One of the main worries was on public transport, especially buses, he said, urging travellers to avoid sitting “shoulder to shoulder” with people who aren’t their travel companions.

July 15th:

The Swedish coronavirus death toll has risen to 5,572 today after a further 27 deaths were reported.

The same day, the total intensive care cases rose by two and there were 491 newly reported cases, bringing the totals to 2,486 and 76,492 respectively.

Press briefings are not being held daily by the Public Health Agency over the summer, but have been reduced to twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The figures are still updated every weekday and we update this blog every weekday too.

Sweden’s foreign ministry lifted its recommendation against travel for three new countries today: Andorra, Poland and Germany — but reintroduced them for Switzerland.

That comes as Germany removed Sweden from a list of 126 ‘high risk’ countries, meaning a quarantine is no longer required for travellers from Sweden on arrival.

And for those travelling in the other direction, to Sweden from abroad, remember to follow these guidelines.

July 14th:

Sweden has reported a further 9 deaths of people who had tested positive for the coronavirus, so the total has reached 5,545. 

For two days in July there have been no new admissions to intensive care with the coronavirus, and otherwise there have been around one or two new admissions each day. As of today, 81 people in Sweden are receiving intensive care treatment for Covid-19 — a fall of 25 percent over the past week alone, and a fall of 85 percent from the peak in late April.

Graphs shared by the Public Health Agency at the twice-weekly press conference showed a continued steady decline in new reported cases, intensive care admissions, and deaths. The number of tests taken for ongoing infection has risen to around 80,000 per week, although the proportion of tests giving a positive result has fallen.

The agency’s Karin Tegmark Wisell also said that the agency would compare its figures on deaths with the National Board of Health and Welfare’s deaths register to add in “any cases we have missed”.

The Public Health Agency’s figures show only those deaths where the person tested positive for the coronavirus in the previous 30 days, whereas the National Board of Health and Welfare bases its data on the stated cause of death given by a medical professional, which does not necessarily rely on a confirmed diagnosis. 

In order to keep the curves going in the right direction, Tegmark Wisell called on everyone in Sweden to keep following the guidelines in place, namely:

  • Stay at home if you experience any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus
  • Maintain good hand hygiene
  • Avoid social contacts if aged over 70 or in a risk group
  • Travel responsibly, avoiding public transport where you can’t book a seat (local trains, trams and buses) unless absolutely essential
  • Avoid large social gatherings
  • Avoid close contact with people who aren’t a part of your usual close social circle

New advice around visits to care home residents was announced by the National Board of Health and Welfare. There is still a national ban on such visits, but the new guidelines outline circumstances in which exceptions can be made — in situations where safety of residents and staff can be safeguarded.

Visits should take place outdoors if at all possible, and the agency recommended measures such as plexiglass to reduce the risk of infection.

For visits inside, the agency recommends having a higher threshold for allowing visits (while outdoor visits were advised in safe conditions for purposes such as preventing isolation).

People with a positive antibody test for the coronavirus, meaning they have previously been infected and have developed a protein thought to protect against reinfection, have a higher possibility of visiting care home residents even inside. But the agency noted that the antibody test needed to be reliable and carried out following Public Health Agency guidelines, not be older than six months, and that the visitor must still be symptom-free.

Many coronavirus patients have reported symptoms lasting for months after they were first infected. Now Swedish authorities are starting a review into the long-term effects of the virus.

The pandemic has kept some long distance couples apart for more than four months. We’ve looked into the roles for visiting your partner or having them visit you in Sweden, which depends both on the country they’re located in and the status of your relationship.

July 13th:

Today Sweden reported another 10 deaths of people who had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 5,536. The number of people who have been or are being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care increased by five over the weekend, to a total of 2,475. There have been 75,826 cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak. You can find the latest official figures on the Public Health Agency’s website.

New figures show how the coronavirus crisis has hit the job market in Sweden, and foreign residents and young people are some of the groups that suffer the worst impact. Read The Local’s latest report here.

What do we know about coronavirus infections and deaths among Sweden’s healthcare workers? New figures reveal how the virus has impacted the frontline workers.

READ MORE NEWS FROM SWEDEN:

July 10th:

Today Sweden reported a further 26 deaths with the coronavirus bringing the total since the start of the outbreak to 5,526. But the total number of patients who have received intensive care treatment for the disease saw no change.

Do you run a business in Sweden? We want to hear from you if so, to help us understand how well the government’s crisis packages have worked, how you’ve been affected (and how you expect to be affected in the future), and what more you need. Please fill out our survey here.

Denmark updates its list of ‘open’ countries and regions every Thursday afternoon, and yesterday Skåne was added to the list, meaning leisure trips from Skåne to Denmark can now go ahead. The rules around travel to Denmark from Sweden are quite complicated; you can read a comprehensive overview (including the documents you’ll need) here.

Also today, and also in Skåne, public transport operator in the region announced that from next week it will give out 50,000 free face masks to its customers to support safe travel. That’s despite the fact the Public Health Agency still doesn’t recommend mask-wearing among the general public.

The science around how face masks contribute to preventing the spread of the disease is uncertain, but a new study in one German city sheds some light on the role they may play. Read more on the below article from our German site, part of our Confronting Coronavirus series where our team across Europe has investigated responses to the crisis (big and small) from across the continent:

July 9th:

Sweden has vowed to update its recommendations on foreign travel every two weeks, on the following dates: July 15th, July 29th and August 12th. Read more here.

July 8th:

Sweden today confirmed another 35 deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus, which means 5,482 people have now died. There have been 73,858 confirmed cases of the virus, and a total of 2,469 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care. You can find the latest figures here.

New serious cases of the virus are still falling in Sweden, but with domestic travel rising, the Public Health Agency has urged people in the country to continue social distancing and avoid meeting new people in order to reduce the risk of a second wave of the coronavirus.

Despite the corona pandemic, the Swedish housing market is bucking the usual summer lull with a record-breaking number of apartments snapped up by buyers, fresh figures show.

July 7th:

Sweden today confirmed another 14 deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus, which means 5,447 people have now died. There have been 73,344 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak, and a total of 2,467 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

A total of 116 corona patients are currently on a ventilator in intensive care in Sweden, down from a peak of more than 500 in April.

Almost half of Sweden’s deaths with the coronavirus in the first half of the year occurred in elderly care homes, with 70 percent of the deaths concentrated in 14 percent of municipalities, Sweden’s healthcare watchdog revealed on Tuesday. A new report sheds light on a number of flaws:

July 6th:

New deaths linked to the coronavirus have fallen in Sweden since the peak of the outbreak, but the government has told authorities to start preparing for a possible renewed rise in infections in autumn.

Nobody really knows whether or not there will be a second wave, or what it would look like, but the idea is to be ready to tackle it if or when it hits. So the government on Monday ordered four government agencies, as well as county administrative boards, to start drawing up plans for how to tackle such a second wave.

Tourists are slowly starting to return to Sweden after a historic downturn, new figures show.

Ten of Sweden’s major airports have updated their coronavirus guidelines for passengers to recommend the wearing of face masks inside the terminal. That includes airports such as Arlanda, Landvetter and Malmö.

Sweden today confirmed another 13 deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus, which means 5,433 people have now died. There have been 73,061 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak, and a total of 2,461 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

In non-coronavirus-related news today, we are focusing on news that talks between Sweden’s biggest parties to work out a new migration policy have broken down. Read the latest here.

July 3rd:

Denmark’s border remains closed for most people in Sweden, but it is possible to enter the country for certain purposes, including to pass through the country on the way to another destination – as long as you have the right documents. So here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling through Denmark this summer.

Swedish universities predict an increase in domestic students next semester, but a decrease in new foreign students. The competition for housing is expected to be fierce, and foreign exchange students and visiting researchers will this year not have dibs on a number of earmarked apartments.

Sweden has announced an audit into national crisis preparedness after a report highlighted failures in securing key resources when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Read more about it here.

A further nine deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in Sweden, bringing the total to 5,420. There have been 71,419 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak, and 2,451 corona patients have been in intensive care, which also includes fatalities and patients who have recovered and been discharged.

July 2nd:

Travel within Sweden is now close to the same level it was before the now-lifted restrictions on domestic travel were introduced – but people in the country are still travelling less than at the same time last year.

Sweden today announced new exceptions to the non-EU entry ban, to take effect on July 4th. Some of the major changes was a list of 14 countries where tourists can now travel from to Sweden, and that people with residence/student permits who are moving to Sweden for the first time will now be allowed to enter. There’s bad news for everyone not covered by the exceptions: the entry ban was extended to August 31st.

The coronavirus has put Sweden’s healthcare sector under strain requiring reorganisation and delays and cancellation for routine care. Even potentially life-saving procedures have been affected, with a sharp fall in the number of organ transplants. Read more here.

“Segregation kills. Corona kills too, but faster.” If you read nothing else today, read this.

A handful of Swedish regions are already offering coronavirus antibody tests, and some are planning to roll them out soon. This map shows what the rules are in your region.

A further 41 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported, bringing the total since the start of the outbreak to 5,411. These figures, provided by the Public Health Agency, cover everyone who dies — whether in hospitals, care homes, or at home — within 30 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care is now 138, a number that’s been steadily falling, and 30 percent of the total capacity is available although there are variations between regions ranging from 14 to 67 percent spare capacity.

At today’s press conference, deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten outlined the following advice for the summer:

  • Avoid using public transport where you can’t book a seat (such as buses and trams)
  • Avoid locations with a lot of people and crowding, and avoid large gatherings
  • Continue staying at home if you’re sick, maintaining good hand hygiene, and keeping distance from people outside your household in public
  • Limit your social contacts by meeting only your immediate social circle in person, meeting as few new people as possible

We also heard more about the new rules for restaurants and cafes that came into force yesterday. Municipal councils will now carry out checks to see if they’re following the rules, and there will be new, clear rules set out for restaurants, cafes and other businesses.

The big change is that the Public Health Agency has set out a specific distance: restaurants and cafes must ensure at least one metre’s distance between different groups. Even within groups, the agency recommends an arm’s length distance between people from different households. They also underlined the importance of patrons and guests taking responsibility when going to restaurants.

Sweden’s authorities have been criticised for giving unclear and varying guidance on the appropriate distance to keep. The official regulations only state to “keep distance”, and the Public Health Agency has spoken of an “arm’s length” distance when in public spaces while healthcare service 1177 has referred to “the two-metre rule” in its own information campaigns.

July 1st:

Several readers have told The Local how they have faced xenophobic abuse in Sweden for wearing face masks and asking people to keep their distance in public places. Thank you for sharing your stories in this article. These stories are distressing to read, but we hope our article will help raise the issue.

An emergency law that granted extra powers to the Swedish government in the fight against the coronavirus will not be extended. Here’s the latest.

Yesterday, the Swedish government revealed new details about the panel appointed to take a critical look at the country’s hotly-debated coronavirus approach. One of the country’s top attorneys will lead the commission.

Another 37 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in Sweden, which means the total is now 5,370 as of today. There have been 69,692 confirmed cases and a total of 2,435 corona patients have been treated or are being treated in intensive care. 

Several hospitals are now reporting that they have managed to discharge all of their corona patients from intensive care for the first time in months. That includes for example Danderyd Hospital in Stockholm and the entire region of Västerbotten.

June 30th:

At least 234 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities have elderly care homes with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases. But a handful seem to have been able to protect residents from Covid-19, in some cases despite staff being infected. So what did they do differently, and could their strategies be applies elsewhere?

The EU is set to reopen its borders to visitors from 15 “safe countries”. Here’s the full list.

And from today, Swedish tourists will be able to travel almost-freely to 14 countries in Europe. Here’s what we know so far.

A total of 5,333 people have been confirmed as having died with coronavirus in Sweden. There have been 68,451 confirmed cases of infection and 2,429 corona patients have been treated in intensive care to date.

The Public Health Agency’s Karin Tegmark Wisell shared the agency’s latest data, which showed how the number of daily reported cases has risen recently in Sweden, while the number of serious cases (those requiring hospital care) has been slowly falling since April.

She highlighted that the reason for the rise in new cases is due to testing only recently being expanded to cover all people with symptoms, as has long been the case in many other countries, due to problems in ramping up testing capacity in Sweden.

The number of people requiring intensive care for coronavirus is continuing to fall. 

Tegmark Wisell also said it was important that everyone continue following the general coronavirus recommendations, including large events such as weddings, parties and funerals, and avoiding public transport where you can’t book a seat.

She also explained Sweden’s new guidelines for people who have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. The Public Health Agency now says that based on current knowledge, a positive test with all likelihood means that the person is protected from reinfection for up to six months from the date of receiving the test result. This means that if you belong to a risk group you may be able to meet up with people with confirmed antibodies, but you should still exercise caution. We’ve taken an in-depth look at the new guidelines here.

June 29th:

A further 30 coronavirus deaths were reported in Sweden over the weekend, bringing the total to 5,310. Since the start of the outbreak, 2,423 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care, and there have been in total 67,667 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Public Health Agency’s figures.

Sweden’s care homes have been the setting for the majority of the country’s coronavirus deaths. A new report by the umbrella organisation for Sweden’s regions and municipalities looks into how the facilities acted to deal with the crisis, and where the sector faced obstacles in protecting and caring for the elderly.

The coronavirus crisis turned American-in-Sweden Kirsten Keefe’s wedding plans upside down, meaning most of her family and indeed most of her guests could no longer attend. But planning a major life event during a pandemic had some positive moments too, she writes. 

If you have a story or opinion to share with The Local’s community (whether about how the coronavirus has affected your life, or on another topic related to living in Sweden), get in touch with our editorial team.

A message from our editor: We started this daily blog several months ago in the early days of the coronavirus in Sweden, and we made it free for everyone – as one of the first news sites to drop our paywall on our most essential coronavirus updates. This decision was tough for a news site that survives thanks to our paying members, but at a time when new guidelines were being introduced on an almost-daily basis we knew how important it was to make sure all our readers had access to the latest information in English.

That was also a time when the coronavirus dominated the agenda to the degree where it was practically the only thing we wrote about. In the past couple of months we have started finding the time to cover other issues that matter to or interest our readers, be they work permit legislation, Sweden’s role in the colonial slave trade, how a new consent law led to a rise in rape convictions, or the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme.

We’re a small team with only two full-time reporters and occasional freelance writers, and keeping this blog updated has often, especially during the peak of the crisis, involved logging in on weekends or late evenings. Huge thank yous to everyone who has helped us with ideas, feedback and support as paying members

The crisis is far from over, but I’ve started thinking about what we should focus our efforts on going forward. I’m keen to hear from readers and members whether or not you think we should keep this blog going for now. Is this free round-up of the latest coronavirus-related news still useful to you, or would you rather read separate articles and features? If you have any thoughts or feedback, please feel free to email me.

All the best,

Emma

June 26th:

A further 50 coronavirus deaths have been reported in Sweden over the last 24 hours.

Sweden has further extended a temporary ban on entering the country from outside the EU, and this now applied until July 7th. Read more about the ban — and the exceptions — here.

Taxi and bus drivers have been hit hardest by coronavirus compared to other professions, according to a new report from Sweden’s Public Health Agency

And Sweden is one of 11 European countries for which the World Health Organisation issued a special warning on Thursday, due to high transmission rate of Covid-19. The other ten countries were Armenia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kosovo.

The Public Health Agency said the warning was due to an “unfortunate misinterpretation of data”. We took a close look at the data to assess how accurate the claims of both WHO and the Public Health Agency are.

June 25th:

A further 21 people have been reported dead with coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the total figure to 5,230.

But state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell reiterated at the press conference that Sweden is no longer reporting excess mortality. In other words, the total number of deaths at the moment is consistent with the number during this period over the past five years.

Excess mortality isn’t an exact way of measuring the death toll of coronavirus, since it covers deaths of all causes, but this can make it a useful way of assessing the impact of the virus since it may cover coronavirus deaths that are not captured in official statistics (for example, Sweden’s Public Health Agency records only deaths following a coronavirus diagnosis) as well as any deaths indirectly caused by the virus, for example due to changes in how healthcare is carried out or lifestyle changes as a result.

Tegnell reminded everyone to “travel responsibly” over the summer, avoiding situations where there may be a risk of crowding or being around a lot of people beyond your usual close circle of family and friends.

He said that travel within Sweden has increased since the restriction on domestic travel was lifted in mid-June, but travel levels are still below the levels from this time last year. For example, journeys from Stockholm to Gotland over Midsummer fell by 36 percent. That’s still a big increase since Easter, when the same journey had fallen by 96 percent year-on-year.

June 24th:

A total of 48 new deaths with the coronavirus were reported today, which likely includes some reporting delay from the Midsummer weekend. This brings the total deaths since the start of the crisis to 5,209.

The biggest coronavirus healthcare challenge for many Swedish regions this summer is staffing, especially in small regions which can expect an influx of domestic and foreign tourists, the National Board of Health and Welfare has warned.

These concerns were related not only to medical staff working directly with patients, but also for example to transport, such as people who operate ambulances or air ambulances. Read more on the challenges ahead of the summer here.

One restaurant in rural Sweden has taken the guidelines on social distancing to the extreme, serving individual diners in an empty field with the meal arriving by zipline.

For people living outside their home country, policies like quarantines and travel bans introduced to limit the spread of the coronavirus don’t just mean a disrupted summer holiday, but missing out on seeing friends and family, and on events from weddings to supporting sick relatives. Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences and opinions on travel regulations for this article.

June 23rd:

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell reminded everyone in Sweden to keep following the country’s coronavirus recommendations during the summer to ensure that the number of cases requiring hospital care doesn’t increase above hospital capacity. That’s especially important since capacity is reduced over the summer months.

What exactly does that mean? You can find all the guidelines here (paywall-free), but a quick summary is: stay home if you experience any cold- or flu-like symptoms, limit your social contacts (the number of people you meet) as much as possible and avoid big parties or gatherings, avoid methods of transport where you can’t book a ticket and ensure social distancing, keep a distance (two metres as often as possible) from others in public places, and maintain good hand hygiene.

At the start of the coronavirus crisis, Sweden had one of the lowest numbers of intensive care beds per capita in Europe. But it managed to double that figure and at a nationwide level, has maintained spare capacity in intensive care units throughout the outbreak. Our editor Emma Löfgren took an in depth look at exactly how Sweden increased intensive care capacity so significantly, what obstacles it faced, and what sacrifices that involved. Read more here.

Where can you travel to from Sweden this summer? We’ve updated our guide, so find out which restrictions are in place and where you can travel to freely. 

Mutual trust between state authorities and the public has been the cornerstone of Sweden’s coronavirus response based on voluntary measures. But a new poll underlines a trend seen in recent weeks that this trust is starting to falter.

June 22nd:

The Public Health Agency did not update its figures on coronavirus cases and fatalities over the long weekend, but today reported an increase of 69 confirmed deaths with the virus since Thursday.

Wondering how Sweden’s Nordic neighbours are doing? Sweden has been the worst hit country in the region by some margin. Finland reported one new death with the virus on Monday, bringing its total to 327. In Denmark, two people died with the virus since Friday, and the total since the start of the outbreak is 602 deaths. Norway has the lowest reported death toll at just 248.

Across Europe, countries are tentatively re-opening borders and welcoming the first visitors since the start of the outbreak. In Sweden the situation is a little different as the borders were never fully closed. But people from outside the EU will have to wait a bit longer before they can travel to Sweden. Here’s what you need to know about travelling to Sweden this summer.

On the subject of travel, it’s worth stressing that all tourists and other visitors to Sweden are expected to follow the coronavirus guidelines in place. That obviously goes to residents too; authorities have stressed that everyone in Sweden needs to take responsibility to avoid an increased spread of infection, and a need for new restrictions. Here’s a reminder of the guidelines that currently apply.

People who were born overseas are at higher risk of both catching and dying from the coronavirus in Sweden, a new report from the Public Health Agency shows. But the figures can’t tell us why the incidence and mortality rates are higher for the foreign-born population. Read more here.

June 18th:

The number of coronavirus deaths reached 5,053 today, and two regions have no Covid-19 patients in intensive care. Those were some of the insights that came from today’s press conference from the Public Health Agency and other relevant authorities.

The agency has also published several new reports, including one which showed the overall fatality rate of the coronavirus has been around 0.6 percent in Sweden, or roughly six times as deadly as the seasonal flu. 

Has Sweden passed its coronavirus peak yet? The European Centre for Disease Control says no, while state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell says yes. We looked into the figures.

And some tentative positive news. Sweden’s Finance Minister said on Thursday that the economic impact of the coronavirus may not be as severe as earlier feared — and it’s even noticed the first positive signs.

June 17th:

The number of reported coronavirus deaths today passed 5,000, according to the Public Health Agency’s statistics. There was no press conference, as these are now held only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but the latest figures are at the top of this article.

The Swedish parliament held a memorial ceremony this morning for the thousands of people who have died of the coronavirus in the country. 

Holding this type of ceremony in parliament is an unusual step in Sweden. Previous examples were arranged to honour victims of the 2004 tsunami in which 534 Swedes perished, and of the MS Estonia ferry disaster two decades before that, as well as following the killings of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 and Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in 2003.

Significant changes were made to Sweden’s guidance on international travel today.

From June 30th, the advice against non-essential travel will be lifted for ten EU countries. For other EU/EEA countries, the advice against non-essential travel remains in place until at least July 15th, while for countries outside the bloc, it has been extended until August 31st. Read more here.

The Foreign Ministry’s guidelines aren’t a legally enforced ban, but they do have other implications, including that travel insurance is unlikely to apply if you carry out a trip against this official advice.

June 16th:

A total of 53,323 people have so far tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden. The number of total infections is increasing, but this is due to increased testing which means that many more people with mild symptoms are now becoming part of the statistics. The number of serious cases (people who have been tested as part of hospital care) is relatively stable at the moment or may be seeing another downturn, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at today’s press conference about the situation in Sweden.

“Unfortunately this has been interpreted in international media as a new increase and that we have not reached a peak. That is wrong. Sweden has peaked,” said Tegnell, stressing that many of the new cases are young people, who usually receive relatively mild symptoms compared to older people.

A total of 4,939 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus, but the number of new deaths is going down. The current average is 38 deaths per day, according to the figures Tegnell presented today.

A total of 2,317 coronavirus patients have been or are being treated in intensive care to date.

However, there is a concern that the new and more lenient travel recommendations will lead to people living as normal. Tegnell stressed that it is important that people keep following Sweden’s remaining guidelines for curbing the spread of the coronavirus, such as practising social distancing.

Many European countries are set to start lifting travel restrictions – but different rules may apply depending on where you’re travelling from. Here’s a checklist on what the rules are for people travelling from Sweden.

The new website Re-open.eu gives detailed, country-specific information about potential travel restrictions, what services are open as well as the latest on the coronavirus spread.

Despite the booking app crashing under the pressure, in the end around 30,000 Stockholmers managed to register for a coronavirus test on the first day of the region’s new bid to offer free tests to all residents.

June 15th:

There is no Public Health Agency press conference today (they are only holding them on Tuesdays and Thursdays these days), but it is still publishing Sweden’s daily figures at 2pm on week days. 

Today’s figures show that 4,891 people have died with the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, 2,297 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care, and a total of 52,383 people have tested positive. The Public Health Agency has updated its website to include weekly figures for city districts and municipalities, not just regions. You can access those statistics via this link

The region of Stockholm offered all residents the opportunity to book free coronavirus tests from Monday, but huge interest in both diagnostic and antibody tests caused the app to crash.

Several European countries are opening their borders to some or all EU tourists today, but Swedes are still not allowed to visit its Scandinavian neighbours Denmark, Norway or Finland – with only a few exceptions.

June 12th:

Sweden has extended an entry ban to the EU via Sweden until the end of the month. There are no major changes apart from the new date, and the same exceptions to the ban as before still apply. You can read more about today’s announcement here.

Norway will allow travel to and from all regions of Finland, Sweden and Iceland that have an ‘acceptable’ infection level – a criterion that rules out every region in Sweden apart from the island of Gotland.

Have you ever wondered why Swedes seem to be so obsessed with a civil servant such as state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell? It may help to think of this country not as a country at all – but as a village, writes journalist Lisa Bjurwald in the first of a new series of columns for The Local.

Stockholm is set to roll out free coronavirus tests to all of its citizens starting Monday. That includes both diagnostic tests for those with symptoms and antibody tests for those who want to know if they have had the virus. You have to get in touch on 1177.se/stockholm to book a test. Click here for The Local’s full article.

There was no press conference held by the Public Health Agency today (they’re down to two a week now, Tuesdays and Thursdays), but the daily figures were published on their website at 2pm as usual. From now on, the statistics will only be updated on weekdays, so there will be no updates on Saturday or Sunday.

Sweden has to date registered 4,854 deaths linked to the coronavirus, 2,260 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care, and there have been 49,684 confirmed cases of the virus since the start of the outbreak. Sweden has now (finally, you may add) seriously started scaling up coronavirus testing.

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June 11th:

Sweden has had its biggest increase of new reported cases of the coronavirus in a day, an increase of 1,474 bringing the total to 48,288. This is because increased testing in primary care (so people who are not so ill that they need to be admitted to hospital) is finally having an effect so more people with mild symptoms are being found, said the Public Health Agency’s expert Karin Tegmark-Wisell at today’s press conference.

The number of new deaths and new admissions to intensive care are still generally going down, although intensive care appears to have hit a plateau with only a small decrease. So far, 4,814 people have died in Sweden after testing positive for the virus, and 2,244 coronavirus patients have been or are being treated in intensive care. A total of 281 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in intensive care in Sweden.

The Public Health Agency is set to present a report later today that looks at the virus’ genetic data to see how the coronavirus reached Sweden and spread here. Director-general Johan Carlson has already spoken about the study in an interview today. He said that while they were able to keep track of a lot of the early infections that came from Italy, the virus actually came from a lot of countries that were under their radar

The Swedish government has not made decisions on coronavirus regulations based on the potential economic impact, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson says. Read her latest statement here.

After months of being asked to avoid all non-essential travel, it will soon be possible to go wherever you like within the country, as long as you keep following other guidelines. Here’s a look at how to do that safely.

June 10th:

A total of 4,795 people have died since the start of the outbreak after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, there have been 46,814 confirmed cases of the virus and a total of 2,232 corona patients have been or are being treated in intensive care.

The Swedish Public Health Agency has until now been holding press conferences at 2pm every weekday together with the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Civil Contingencies Agency. But from now on they will only hold them twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the agencies just announced.

The biggest story in Sweden today is actually about something completely different. The prosecutor investigating the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 has promised to present his conclusions at a much-anticipated press conference at 9.30am. We’ll be covering it on The Local, so stay tuned.

June 9th:

A total of 45,924 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden since the start of the outbreak. The number of new cases is rising fairly sharply right now, but most of the increase is due to more people being tested in primary care, most of whom have mild symptoms, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told today’s press conference. Almost 49,200 tests were analysed in Sweden last week – this is still behind a goal of 100,000 tests a week, but an increase compared to almost 36,500 tests the week before.

Tegnell said that the number of new admissions to intensive care and the number of new deaths also appear to be slowing down. A total of 2,209 coronavirus patients have been treated in intensive care in Sweden since the start of the outbreak, and 4,717 people have died. “Still far too many, but significantly fewer,” said Tegnell.

A total of 296 coronavirus patients were being treated in intensive care in Sweden on Tuesday.

Stockholm has been by far Sweden’s hardest hit region by the coronavirus, which means summer 2020 will have to look very different in order to stop the infection rate rising again.

The regional council spoke to reporters this morning about what to expect this summer, from advice on finding new, less crowded places to explore, to new guidelines on how to visit elderly relatives, even residents of care homes, in a way that has a very low risk of infection.

June 8th:

At today’s press conference, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that every region in Sweden was testing more people and therefore discovering more cases, particularly those with mild symptoms thought to make up a large proportion of Covid-19 cases.

The biggest increase was in tests carried out within primary care, meaning tests for people outside the high priority groups — risk groups, healthcare workers, and other people in socially important jobs — who have symptoms requiring medical care but not hospitalisation. 

He said that an average of around 40 people are still dying of Covid-19 each day, “a number that is far too high”.

People without symptoms will be able to travel within Sweden from June 13th, and Tegnell reiterated that the same guidelines as before (for example maintaining good hand hygiene, keeping distance from others in public places, working from home if possible, and avoiding contact with those in risk groups) must still be adhered to in order to stop more people getting infected with the virus.

National Board of Health and Welfare crisis manager Johanna Sandwall said there were some regions with no patients in intensive care and others where intensive care units were full, so there was coordination between different regions.

The number of patients in intensive care with Covid-19 remained under 300, at 298.

There were quite a few changes to Sweden’s coronavirus recommendations last week, from new rules around travel into Sweden and within the country, to the announcement that everyone with Covid-19 symptoms will soon be able to get tested for free if they have a doctor’s referral.

Despite these changes, the message from the authorities is that we are a long way from being past the danger. We’ve recapped some of the most important rules you should still be following in Sweden.

Sweden’s economy is taking a hard hit from the coronavirus crisis, despite the lack of a hard shutdown and most businesses being able to operate. Protecting the economy wasn’t a factor in choosing a strategy based on voluntary measures, and we’ve reported on the grim economic outlook before, but here’s a look at some updated figures.

We’re reporting the major coronavirus news in Sweden on this blog, but if you’re wondering what else has been going on over the past few days, check out the article below.

Black Lives Matter protests have taken place across the country, political party leaders held their first televised debate since the coronavirus outbreak started, and a decision on the country’s most famous murder case is expected this week.

June 5th:

A total of 4,639 people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, 2,152 have been or are being treated for the virus in intensive care, and a total of 42,939 people have so far tested positive, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest figures, presented today.

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Sweden’s government has made some clarifications to the entry ban currently in place due to the coronavirus. Among other things, it may make it slightly easier for families to reunite in Sweden.

June 4th:

Sweden will lift its coronavirus restrictions on domestic travel on June 13th, allowing people without symptoms to travel within the country this summer. This means that as long as you are symptom-free, and as long as you follow other health and safety guidelines and practise social distancing, you will be able to travel freely within Sweden. But Prime Minister Stefan Löfven urged people to exercise “caution”. Read more here.

Low testing rates for the coronavirus have been one of the problems raised by the Public Health Agency and government as something the country needs to improve, and today a major overhaul of testing was announced.

The plan is to offer free coronavirus tests to anyone with symptoms who is referred for a test by a doctor, regardless of the severity of their symptoms, and to resume contact tracing.

But Health Minister Lena Hallengren mentioned two caveats: it’s unclear exactly when this will come into effect, and it doesn’t mean that everyone who thinks they have symptoms will be eligible for a test — it will still require a referral from a medical professional. Read the full story at the link below:

At today’s press conference, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell again stressed the importance of everyone in Sweden continuing to reduce their social contacts, keep distance in public places, and stay at home with any symptoms, in order to ensure the curves continue to go down.

The number of patients being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care in Sweden fell below 300 for the first time since March, according to Sweden’s intensive care register. On June 4th, 295 people were being treated in the country’s intensive care units according to the register, but the National Board of Health and Welfare said at the press conference the current figure was 303. Differences in the time that this data is reported are likely to be behind that discrepancy.

Tegnell was asked about this afternoon’s government press conference and whether the Public Health Agency had made a decision on domestic travel (see entry below) but said he had “no comment” on this other than that guidelines would be shared this week.

Sweden is expected to lift its travel restrictions within Sweden “shortly”, according to unconfirmed reports by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, reported at around 1.30pm. Sweden’s current rules, which are strong recommendations but are not enforced, advise people to avoid non-essential travel, but state that car journeys of around one to two hours are ok as long as other social distancing and health precautions are taken.

We’ll have a full report on www.thelocal.se as soon as we know more. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven is set to give a press conference this afternoon, and there is also the daily press conference by the Public Health Agency to look out for at 2pm – it’s a busy day here in Sweden.

By choosing not to follow recommendations to keep distance, you are putting lives at risks, the head of Stockholm’s healthcare warned residents of the capital today. Read his stark warning to Stockholmers here.

The field hospital that was set up in Älvsjö, south of Stockholm, to increase intensive care capacity for coronavirus patients will now be dismantled. It has not yet been used to take in patients. Read more here.

The Swedish island of Gotland is almost entirely dependent on summer tourism for its economy, so business-owners here are waiting even more eagerly than most for a delayed decision on domestic travel over summer. Here’s what some Gotlanders said.

June 3rd:

A total of 4,542 people have been confirmed as having died after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, and there have been 40,803 confirmed cases. Since the start of the outbreak, 2,121 corona patients have been treated or are being treated in intensive care, according to the Public Health Agency’s new figures.

You may have noticed that the number of confirmed cases increased quite sharply today, from 38,589 yesterday. That’s because almost 1,400 of the new cases are not actually new cases, but have suddenly appeared in the statistics because a laboratory in Stockholm had reported its data late, said Tegnell. He said that they were all healthcare staff and that none of them had been very ill and none of them had died.

Tegnell also elaborated on comments he made in an interview with Swedish public radio about things that he and the rest of the team would have done differently in hindsight, clarifying that he did not mean that they would have drastically changed the strategy. “We still think that the strategy is good, but you can always make improvements, especially when looking back. I personally think it would be rather strange if anyone answered anything else to such a question. You can always do things better.”

June 2nd:

At today’s press conference, the Public Health Agency’s Karin Tegmark Wisell, said that one of the figures that gives the clearest indication of the status of the outbreak is the number of people being treated in intensive care.

The number of people in Sweden’s intensive care units with coronavirus has increased slightly over the past seven days, she said, especially in Stockholm and Västra Götaland, but the total number is still significantly lower than it was during April. According to the Swedish Intensive Care Register, there were 308 people in ICUs with coronavirus on June 1st.

“If you look at the rolling seven-day average for intensive care admissions you see a fall in April and May, and then a stabilisation,” she explained. 

Few of the people behind Sweden’s coronavirus strategy were well-known in wider society before the outbreak, but now these are the people speaking at the daily press conferences and in the media about the situation in Sweden. Many of them shape the policies designed to protect the Swedish population, and which we are all urged to follow. Here’s a look at each of their roles and experience.

Sweden analysed its largest number of coronavirus tests last week, according to new figures. But the total number of tests is still far below the government’s stated target.

June 1st:

You may just have heard a loud noise, sounding a bit like an elephant or a fog horn. It had nothing to do with the coronavirus, and there is no reason to be alarmed. Here’s an explanation in case you’re interested.

At today’s press conference, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell urged people to keep following the recommendations in place, and said the Public Health Agency was starting to look at long-term trends in the development of the outbreak in Sweden.

“It’s quite a varying picture. Some regions are falling [in numbers of cases], some are stable, and a few have begun to move upwards, but these are regions with very few inhabitants,” he said. 

The graph below shared by the Public Health Agency at the press conference shows how the number of new reported cases are rising, falling or remaining steady in different parts of the country. It excludes cases among healthcare staff who are not receiving medical care, so gives a picture of the more serious cases requiring medical care.

Has the coronavirus changed your life in Sweden, and what should the country do to help its foreign residents cope with the fallout of the crisis? Click here to have your say in The Local’s survey.

As regular followers of this blog will know, Sweden updates its number of known coronavirus patients and fatalities (people who have tested positive) at 2pm every day. Yesterday was the first day when the country did not report any new coronavirus-linked deaths since March 13th.

However, as encouraging as that may sound, it is extremely unlikely that it means that no one died with the virus in the 24 hours leading up to that. The latest figures get reported to the Public Health Agency by Sweden’s 21 regions, and there is usually a reporting delay during the weekend – which is why, as in many other countries, the number appears to rise mid-week and fall on weekends.

Health officials keep urging people to follow the recommendations and maintain social distancing. 

May 29th:

We have written a bit more about what Sweden’s decision to allow universities to reopen for the autumn semester means for students who are here on a residence permit, and need an extension. You can read the full article here, but the short version is that it depends on what your individual university decides to do.

One of the conditions for a student residence permit is that most of the teaching has to be done on campus, and some universities have already said they will continue digital teaching this autumn. At the time of writing it is not clear if many of them will stick with those plans or open up for on-campus teaching again.

The Migration Agency has said that as long as most of the teaching is done on campus it will be able to grant a permit extension, and that it will try to interpret the rules “generously” based on the current situation.

Sweden’s neighbours Denmark and Norway have agreed to open their borders to each other, but not to Sweden.

Sweden has chosen a different strategy in response to the coronavirus than its Nordic neighbours, with no lockdown. It has also seen higher rates of infection and higher death tolls than both Denmark and Norway, although infection rates vary significantly across the country.

A member of parliament for the Swedish border city of Malmö, told The Local he was “disappointed” by the decision and had hoped that the Nordics would “look more at a regional level.” Read more here.

At today’s press conference, one of the key pieces of news was that the number of confirmed cases at elderly care homes has fallen over the past six weeks.

Residents and staff at elderly care homes are in the top priority group for coronavirus testing, and the Public Health Agency’s Head of the Department for Antibiotics and Infection Control Malin Grape said that increasing testing capacity and other measures had had positive results.

Sweden’s care homes have been hard hit by the coronavirus, with residents of such homes making up around half of all deaths linked to the virus, and the country’s healthcare watchdog has reported serious problems in one tenth of more than 1,000 homes it audited.

Sweden is set to reopen universities and schools for over-16s from June 15th. The decision was presented at a press conference with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Education Minister Anna Ekström, Higher Education Minister Matilda Ernkrans and Johan Carlson, general-director of the Public Health Agency, at 1pm.

This doesn’t mean that everyone will return to school or university in mid-June, because many students will then already have left for their summer break. And when education resumes in autumn, some form of distance teaching for adult education may still be needed in order to follow Sweden’s overall coronavirus restrictions, said the ministers. If there is a second wave of infection, that could also change the decision.

We were expecting a decision from the Public Health Agency today on the guidelines for domestic travel over summer, but newswire TT reports that it will now come at some point next week instead. You can read about the current guidelines here, which include guidance to avoid all non-essential travel of more than two hours by car.

When The Local spoke to state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell last week, he told us that the agency was looking into whether it would be possible to be “more lenient” on travel guidelines for the summer.

Elite sport will be able to restart from June 14th, but it will be much longer before spectators can attend games or matches. Players will be exempt from guidelines to avoid travel of more than two hours, but otherwise they must comply with the Public Health Agency guidelines, for example not participating when showing symptoms.

Sweden’s former state epidemiologist Annika Linde has told The Local that there is a need for more humility in discussions of the Swedish coronavirus strategy.

Although initially supportive of the choices made by her predecessors, Linde now believes moves like a temporary lockdown and quarantine of all returning travellers in the early stages of the outbreak could have saved lives. Read the full interview below:

May 28th:

A total of 4,266 people have passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus, since the start of the outbreak in Sweden. There have been 35,727 confirmed cases of the virus and 2,032 corona patients have been treated or are being treated in intensive care, which also includes fatalities and recoveries.

There are currently 335 coronavirus patients in intensive care units across Sweden, a number that is currently falling. However, in the Gothenburg region, as The Local reported yesterday (scroll down to May 27th to read), they have seen a slight uptick in the number of intensive care patients in the past couple of weeks.

The Italian embassy in Stockholm has criticised state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell after comments in which he said the Swedish healthcare system “should have done better than Italy” in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Read Tegnell’s and the ambassador’s comments here.

Sweden’s healthcare watchdog has reported “serious failures” in one tenth of more than 1,000 elderly care homes it has looked into as part of a major probe into the coronavirus response.

As well as the investigation into elderly care homes, IVO has received 3,000 complaints of risks within the health and care sector as a whole since the start of March.

More than a third (37 percent) were directly related to the coronavirus, and around 40 percent were reports of risks judged to be “serious”, but that proportion rose to 54 percent within the elderly care sector. Read more in the article below:

May 27th:

“I can honestly say I would not have wanted a lockdown,” Sweden’s Health Minister Lena Hallengren told The Local in an interview we have just published here. However, she also said that Sweden’s high number of deaths in elderly care homes could be described as nothing but a “society-wide failure”.

You can read the full interview here. If you haven’t yet, please consider supporting us by paying for membership of The Local. The media industry is one of several industries hit hard by the corona-fuelled economic crisis. Our own advertising revenue has plummeted, and we have survived as a business this far thanks to everyone who has signed up as a member. So far, we have around 25,000 paying members, but to become sustainable on membership alone and do interviews like this we will need at least 40,000 to join us.

We know not everyone will be able to pay for membership and we must all help each other, so that’s why we have chosen to keep this blog with the most essential updates paywall-free since the start of the outbreak.

But membership is not a one-way street. In return, you get unlimited reading of all The Local’s sites across Europe and none of those annoying banner ads if you’re logged in. And we believe your voice matters, so please feel free to email our editorial team at [email protected] if you have any questions or feedback. 

Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg has issued a warning that the number of coronavirus-related admissions have been increasing in the past two weeks, after decreasing sharply since late April.

“We’re seeing a new hump, which probably is a direct effect of people’s behaviour in recent weeks. On behalf of the hospital, I really want to urge the public to take the Public Health Agency’s recommendations seriously. Keep your distance, don’t crowd together in bars, keep your distance in shops and don’t be out and about in society unless you have to. And use hand disinfectant and wash your hands often,” said Thomas Brezicka, one of the hospital’s medical chiefs, in a statement.

A total of 4,220 people have died after testing positive for the coronvirus since the start of the outbreak in Sweden, a figure described by state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell as “very high and very sad” at Wednesday’s press conference with Sweden’s health authorities.

There have been 35,088 confirmed cases of the virus in Sweden, and 2,002 coronavirus patients have been treated or are being treated in intensive care since the start of the outbreak.

A total of 339 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in intensive care units, said Taha Alexandersson, deputy crisis manager for the National Board of Health and Welfare, and 1,482 coronavirus patients are being treated in other hospital departments. Both figures are down compared to yesterday, when hopes were expressed that a slight new increase in patients were a “temporary deviation”.

It is sometimes tempting to paint an entire country with the same brush, but the situation is not the same all over Sweden. These stats show how the outbreak is developing in the Malmö region in southern Sweden.

May 26th:

The Public Health Agency had previously said that they would look at introducing slightly more lenient guidelines for healthy over-70s, but after looking into the data they have decided not to do that.

So people aged over 70 are still urged to avoid direct social contact if possible, but that does not necessarily mean staying locked up in your home at all times. Director-general Johan Carlson told the government’s press conference at 2.45pm that the risk of infection can be significantly reduced by meeting people outdoors as long as you keep a distance. But elderly people, particularly with underlying health conditions, should continue to avoid non-essential interaction with people in indoor places, such as public transport or shops.

A total of 4,125 people have since the start of the outbreak died after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to the Public Health Agency’s new figures presented at today’s 2pm press conference. There have been 34,440 confirmed cases so far, and 1,987 people have been or are being treated in intensive care.

According to the National Board of Health and Welfare’s figures, 585 people are currently being treated with ventilators in intensive care across Sweden. That figure includes 343 coronavirus patients, which is an increase compared to yesterday, said crisis manager Johanna Sandwall. Coronavirus patients in hospital, but not in intensive care, have also increased by around 100 since yesterday, around 1,500 in total.

“We hope this is a temporary deviation, but we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow,” said Sandwall.

But on the whole, the number of new patients admitted to intensive care every day has more than halved since the peak, said the Public Health Agency’s expert Karin Tegmark Wisell. In mid-April more than 40 new patients were admitted to intensive care every day, a figure that has since fallen to around 10-15.

The health authorities’ 2pm press conference did not announce new guidelines for healthy over-70s, but there’s going to be a government press conference at 2.45pm, so we’ll see if it’s mentioned there. 

Fewer people were tested for the coronavirus in Sweden last week, despite pledges to increase testing. Read the full report here.

Swedish health authorities are expected to present new coronavirus guidelines for “young elderly” people, in other words people who are aged over 70 but are healthy, later today. Here’s what we know so far, but we will also publish the new recommendations in this blog when we get them, which will likely be this afternoon.

Sweden has never been in lockdown, with authorities instead expecting to keep the measures in place for a longer period than other countries. But there are signs that the restrictions, such as they are, may start to become more lenient, with state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell telling The Local that they may look at easing the rules for domestic travel ahead of the summer holidays (Sweden does love its long summer holidays).

That said, concerns have been raised that an increasing number of people are taking it upon themselves to start easing their restrictions, but everyone is still urged to keep following those guidelines put in place.

May 25th:

No visits from family, and potentially no partner with you during childbirth if they develop a cold – these are just some of the challenges being faced by new parents during the coronavirus epidemic. The Local has spoken with a number of new mothers or mothers-to-be about the impact on their life in Sweden.

So many Danes were returning from Sweden and Bornholm on Sunday night, that a six-kilometre long traffic jam formed on the bridge linking the two countries, forcing police to call in reinforcements to handle border checks. A Swedish politician had harsh words for his Danish counterparts when he spoke to The Local.

The number of people who have died with coronavirus in Sweden has now passed 4,000.

As is usual after the weekend, especially a long weekend as Sweden has just had, there is some delay in the figures reported.

At today’s press conference, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell emphasised that despite a steady fall in the number of cases in intensive care, the pressure on healthcare remains high.

He also reiterated: “We will have to live with the virus for a long time to come.”

Some positive signs came from elderly care homes, where the majority of deaths so far have taken place. The number of Covid-19 cases in such residences have fallen from 400 per week at the peak to around 60-70 new confirmed cases each week, while known deaths with the coronavirus at care homes have fallen from over 100 to around 30 per week. 

Sweden has issued new guidelines about sexual relationships in times of corona. You can read The Local’s full report here, but here’s the gist:

“According to our general advice, you should keep a distance from other people to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. This is especially true outside your immediate social circle,” writes the Public Health Agency on its website.

“Closeness, intimacy and sex are good for well-being and public health. In relationships, where people are still meeting and are close to each other, sex is no obstacle if you and your partner, or partners, show no symptoms of illness.”

However, when it comes to casual dating, it adds: “Dating and temporary sexual relationships with new partners, on the other hand, pose a risk of getting infected or infecting others.”

Swedish banking giant Handelsbanken has outlined exactly by how much it predicts property prices will drop when the coronavirus crisis hits the housing market. Read the full article here.

We’re back from the weekend break and will update this article later with the most recent news from the Swedish health authorities’ press conference at 2pm. This map gives you a rough idea of what the situation is in Sweden as of May 24th (tap the regions or hover your cursor over them to get regional figures):

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May 22nd:

There was no press conference from the Public Health Agency today because Thursday was a public holiday. But we do have an update to Sweden’s coronavirus figures. The country has now reported 32,809 known cases, 1,906 people receiving intensive care treatment for the virus, and 3,925 deaths with the virus since the start of the outbreak.

People aged over 80 have made up 66 percent of those who have died from coronavirus in Sweden, but less than five percent of those treated in intensive care. There are several factors behind the sharp discrepancy, and some unanswered questions, including whether more elderly people should be admitted to intensive care. 

Throughout the course of the outbreak, Sweden has reported around 20-30 percent available capacity in the country’s intensive care units.

As countries across Europe ease their coronavirus lockdowns, many may look to Sweden to see how the Scandinavian country has fared without tight restrictions. They could learn both from its failures and from cautious signs of what’s working.

Read our in depth article below:

May 20th:

A Chinese student who has lived in Stockholm since 2018 has told The Local he no longer feels safe in the city after experiencing a racially motivated assault for wearing a face mask. Read the full interview here.

Sweden’s healthcare watchdog has launched a major investigation after concerns were raised over the treatment of elderly people in care homes during the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

People working in “socially important functions” will be prioritised for coronavirus tests under new rules in Sweden. Here’s a look at who that includes, who can get tested and how.

A total of 31,523 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden so far, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest figures. A total of 1,886 people have been treated or are being treated in intensive care and 3,831 people have died after testing positive for the virus. 

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell urged care homes to keep testing residents for the coronavirus even if their symptoms are vague. “Because we know that the elderly are the major risk group,” he said.

Applications to extend a stay in Sweden have increased sharply in the past couple of months, as foreign residents report getting stuck in the country for various reasons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.

Threats to suspend tram services in Gothenburg over health and safety concerns linked to the coronavirus have been cancelled at the eleventh hour. Read the latest here.

May 19th:

A total of 3,743 people have now died after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, 1,873 people have been in intensive care since the start of the outbreak, and 30,799 people have tested positive, said Sara Byfors, an expert at the Public Health Agency, at the health authorities’ daily press conference at 2pm.

Asked by the Financial Times’ Nordic correspondent Richard Milne to comment on the newspaper’s figures which show Sweden as the country with the highest seven-day rolling average of new deaths per million, Byfors said:

“Of course we’re concerned about people dying from this disease, it’s not something we take lightly. I haven’t seen those numbers or those data. We keep on working on our strategy and also in Sweden we see that the epidemic is slowing down, so that will also show in the numbers, hopefully.”

Taha Alexandersson, deputy crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare, told the press conference that 383 coronavirus patients were being treated in intensive care on Tuesday. That’s a slight increase from 371 intensive care patients on Monday, but she noted that we are now on the fifth consecutive day of fewer than 400 coronavirus patients in intensive care.

Gothenburg’s iconic trams will suspend services from 3pm today after labour union health and safety representatives raised concern that not enough protective measures had been put in place for drivers. You can read more here. Update: Shortly before 3pm the stoppage was postponed until Wednesday.

A total of 10,458 people died in April, according to preliminary statistics by Statistics Sweden, making it Sweden’s deadliest month in a long time.

“We have to go back to December 1993 to find more deaths in a single month. Then, 11,057 people died. In total, 97,008 people died in 1993 which was the highest number of deaths in one year since 1918 during the peak of the Spanish flu,” said Tomas Johansson, analyst at Statistics Sweden, in a statement.

If you take population figures into account however, more people died in January 2000 than in April this year. A total of 110.8 people per 100,000 inhabitants died that month, compared to 101.1 last month.

Read the full article here


Sara Byfors of the Swedish Public Health Agency. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

May 18th:

The Local’s journalist Catherine Edwards got a chance to ask Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell a few quick questions today, including about tests for teachers, summer travel restrictions, and how you should get your recommended exercise if you’re in a risk group but live in a busy area. Here’s what Tegnell told us.

Could Sweden’s looser coronavirus restrictions help the country face the economic crisis better than elsewhere? Experts told The Local that any benefit from the lack of lockdown is likely to be small.

Sweden wants to fast track a new law that would make it easier for local authorities to inspect bars and restaurants and fine any that do not follow social distancing rules. Read more about the proposal here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 3,698 people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus. There have been 30,377 confirmed cases, of which many of the new cases are due to increased testing of healthcare workers. A total of 371 coronavirus patients were being treated with ventilators in intensive care on Monday.

May 15th:

Several European countries are now urging people to wear face masks in public, even making them compulsory on public transport in some cases. Why is Sweden not following suit? The Local takes a closer look at why Sweden is not recommending face masks in public places in this article.

Another 117 people have died after testing positive for the new coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 3,646 people. A total of 1,800 people have been treated or are being treated in intensive care since the start of the outbreak, and 29,207 people have tested positive, according to the Public Health Agency.

Sweden’s reproduction number is just under 1, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. That’s the number that shows the virus’ ability to spread, and the short explanation of what it means is that if the number is higher than 1, the virus is spreading exponentially, so a number under 1 is good. Many of the new people testing positive are due to an increase in testing, especially of healthcare workers, said Tegnell.

The number of patients being treated in intensive care has fallen to 397, said Taha Alexandersson of the National Board of Health and Welfare. That’s the first time the number of intensive care patients falls below 400 since the week starting March 30th, and a decrease of almost 20 percent since last Friday.

Crime in Sweden has fallen during the pandemic. But is that just coincidence, and how has it affected specific crimes such as assault or break-ins? New preliminary statistics shed light on the situation.

May 14th:

Sweden today extended its entry ban to the EU via Sweden until June 15th. There are a few exceptions, and we have received questions from readers about whether or not residence permit holders are exempt from the ban. We have just written this article clarifying the situation, but here’s a short version if you can’t read it:

Every individual situation is different, and it will be up to the border police to assess each case. But in general, if you are a residence permit holder who are already living in Sweden you are exempt from the entry ban. However, if you have been granted a residence permit but have not yet moved here you are not.

You can also read more on the Swedish Migration Agency’s website.

Another 69 people have been confirmed as having died after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 3,529 people, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest figures.

There have been 28,582 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of May 14th, and 1,783 people have been treated or are being treated in intensive care (the figure includes current patients, as well as fatalities and patients who have recovered and been discharged).

May 13th:

Sweden has issued updated recommendations for travel, extending the advice to avoid non-essential trips overseas but introducing more clarity around domestic travel.

The Foreign Ministry has now advised against non-essential international travel until at least July 15th, but warned this may be extended or even lifted early, depending on the global situation.

Within Sweden, journeys equivalent to a one- or two-hour car journey are now permitted under certain conditions. The government said that you should only travel in small groups of family or close friends, not meet anyone in a risk group, and limit social contacts both during travel and at your destination.

Advice to avoid longer domestic trips, not take part in large social gatherings, and to stay at home completely if you have any symptoms of illness, are still in place.

Read more in the articles below:

Another 147 people have been confirmed as having died after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing Sweden’s total death toll to 3,460, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest figures presented today.

“It is terribly sad that so many people are still dying in this disease in Sweden,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told the health authorities’ daily press conference at 2pm.

There have been a total of 27,909 confirmed cases of the virus, and 1,768 people have been in intensive care since the start of the outbreak. The situation is still stabilising in some of the regions worst hit, such as Stockholm, Sörmland and Östergötland, said Tegnell, but urged people to keep following official recommendations – which include for example social distancing and regular hand washing

Swedish hospitals are still in the “crisis management phase” said Taha Alexandersson, deputy crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare. But more and more regions are reporting that the situation is stable or stabilising, she added. A total of 420 people are currently being treated in intensive care in Sweden, down from a peak of more than 500 a couple of weeks ago.

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The coronavirus crisis has led to falling prices in Sweden, across a whole range of categories – but food is getting pricier. This new list shows what has become cheaper, and what has become more expensive.

May 12th:

Sweden has so far had 27,272 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest update. A total of 3,313 people have died after testing positive and a total of 1,765 people have been treated in intensive care since the start of the outbreak.

A total of 439 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in intensive care, according to the National Board of Health and Welfare, and an additional 1,687 patients are being treated in hospital.

Billions of kronor are set to be injected into Swedish health and social care this year and next, to attract more people to jobs in elderly care and help regions affected by the coronavirus, the government announced on Tuesday. Read more about the new crisis package here.

Stockholm health authorities have started planning for how to roll out a mass immunisation programme – once a vaccine is available – for the coronavirus, which has been linked to more than 1,600 deaths in the Swedish capital region alone. Here’s more information about the latest news from the Swedish capital.

May 11th:

The number of people who have passed away with the coronavirus in Sweden has reached 3,225, while the total number of confirmed cases is now 26,670. 

There were 466 people in intensive care for the virus as of May 11th, while 1,621 patients are being treated in hospital but outside intensive care.

The graphs below, shared in the daily press conference, show the figures of daily reported deaths and ICU cases, along with the seven-day average.

Excess mortality in Sweden has continued to fall since its peak in mid-April, figures from national statistics agency Statistics Sweden show. Excess mortality refers to the difference between the number deaths on a specific day, week or month, compared to the historical average for that time. Statistics Sweden measured the deaths on a given week in 2020, compared with the 2015-2019 average for that week.

It is a useful figure to look at in the context of the coronavirus, because not all deaths linked to the virus will show up in official statistics – the Public Health Agency counts those where the patient tested positive for the virus, while the National Board of Health and Welfare counts those where the virus was listed as a cause of death.

The peak in excess mortality was in the week of April 6th-12th, when 2,554 people died in the country. That was the highest figure since the turn of the millennium, as The Local reported when the figures were first shared.

Since then, excess mortality has fallen, but there are still more people dying than in the same period in previous years. In the week ending May 3rd, in Stockholm and Östergötland the excess mortality was more than 50 percent higher than the average for the previous five years.

Clothing chain H&M has laid off over 1,000 staff, due both to the coronavirus and ongoing re-organisation of the business. In Sweden, 350 employees will lose their jobs due to the changes, while around 100 staff members at the head office have not had their fixed-term or probationary contracts renewed, and the same applies to around 800 consultants.

“It is of course painful to have to take these decisions, but we will give them support for a career outside the H&M group,” the company wrote in a press release.

Worldwide, more than 3,000 of H&M’s 5,000 shops are closed due to the pandemic and the company had previously sent home tens of thousands of workers.

Over the weekend, the number of known cases in Sweden rose to 26,322 and reported deaths to 3,225. However, we know that there is a reporting lag over weekends so these figures won’t give a full picture of the spread of the virus in Sweden (and currently tests are mostly being carried out only on people needing hospital care or who work in the healthcare sector).

The next update from the Public Health Agency will be at 2pm today and this page will be updated shortly after with the latest figures.

May 8th:

Have governments around Europe made too many mistakes in handling the coronavirus crisis or is the public behind them? Our reporters and contributors from eight different countries gauge the public mood and levels of satisfaction in their leaders. Read the full article here:

Different regions of Sweden are at different stages of the coronavirus infection curve, and the same is true of different municipalities within each region. Here’s a look at the situation in Västra Götaland in western Sweden, a region that includes Sweden’s second-biggest city Gothenburg, based on the latest statistics:

A group of international students has asked the Swedish government to adjust tuition fees and criteria for residence permits, as their economic situations have been severely affected by the ongoing situation. Read the full story:

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Sweden’s coronavirus-related death toll rose to 3,175 people today, and the number of confirmed cases to 25,265. But there is hope that number of new cases is going down, with deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten telling the Public Health Agency’s daily press conference that although the outbreak is still ongoing across Sweden, “we are not seeing the same peaks [in new cases] as we saw before”.

For the first time since more than a month, the number of patients in intensive care has fallen below 500, according to Taha Alexandersson, deputy crisis manager at the National Board for Health and Welfare.

“I want to emphasise that caring for 500 seriously ill Covid patients and other inpatients in intensive care is an extreme situation for healthcare staff,” she added.

A total of 1,672 patients have been treated in intensive care since the start of the outbreak, most of whom have been discharged.

Spotify, H&M and Tele2 are among the large Swedish companies that have begun testing staff to see if they have had the coronavirus.

It is not yet clear exactly what level of protection a person who has had the coronavirus has against future re-infection, but the aim of such tests is to make it easier for employees to start working as normal when it is safe to do so.

How much have travel patterns changed in Sweden? Movement in restaurants, shops, and other activities linked to retail and entertainment is down 13 percent in March-April compared to January-February, according to data from Google, while movement in parks rose by 82 percent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the lack of lockdown or widespread business closures in Sweden, the change in movement is far less than the changes reported in the other Nordic countries..

Read more in the article below:

While Swedish schools for under-16s remain open, upper secondary schools and universities have sent students home and are carrying out distance learning. In planning for the new school year in autumn, the schools are working on the assumption that distance learning will continue.

The head of the Swedish National Agency for Education said that schools and municipalities must have a plan A, a plan B, and plan C for the year, depending on whether the situation gets better, worse, or remains unchanged.

“Schools usually know by this time exactly how it will be in August and September. But this year we know nothing, and have to be ready for different scenarios,” the agency’s head Peter Fredriksson said.

If distance learning has to continue, the hope is to find a solution for students starting upper secondary school to meet in person in some way in order to form key relationships, for example by attending in smaller groups. 

May 7th:

A total of 3,040 people have died since the start of the outbreak, after testing positive for the coronavirus. Since the start of the outbreak, 1,645 people have been in intensive care (most of whom have been discharged, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at the Public Health Agency’s daily press conference). 

There have in total been 24,623 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but a lot of the new cases are due to increased testing of healthcare staff, said Tegnell. The number of new deaths every day and the number of new patients admitted to intensive care appears to be stable or going down. 

The number of new infections in care homes for the elderly is decreasing in Stockholm, said Tegnell, stressing that it was important to transfer “those lessons we learn in Stockholm to the rest of the country” which has not yet been affected as badly as Stockholm and its surrounding regions.

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The Moderate Party, Sweden’s main opposition party, has called for an independent expert group to evaluate how Sweden can get through the coronavirus crisis, according to a document from party leader Ulf Kristersson and seen by the Aftonbladet newspaper.

Sweden’s party leaders will meet today to discuss the country’s coronavirus response. The note highlights that a similar expert group exists in Norway, and that in the UK five criteria have been made public which must be met before any restrictions are introduced.

“It is still unclear which strategy is leading the government’s handling of the pandemic – among other things, there is no transparency about which criteria are used and how these are weighed against each other,” the proposal states, according to Aftonbladet.

The government will now cover the costs of sick pay until at least the end of July.

Usually individual employers cover the costs of sick pay for the second to 14th day of an employee’s illness, but during the coronavirus the state is footing the bill. The support was originally announced to apply in April and May, but has now been extended, and although it is part of a set of measures to deal with the coronavirus, it applies no matter what the cause of the employee’s illness is.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has addressed criticisms that the government has handed over too much responsibilities to agencies in an interview with the TT newswire which also addressed the failure to better protect care home residents. You can read our English translation of the interview in the article below:

May 6th:

A woman working at an elderly care home in the Örebro region has been reported to the police for allegedly showing up at work despite having tested positive for the coronavirus, public broadcaster SVT reports.

There have been confirmed cases of the coronavirus among residents at the care home. However, it is not clear whether or not the woman infected anyone, and the investigation is still at the very early stages with no formal charges pressed. She was reported by a manager in the municipality, which has not been named.

“We need to confirm that she is infected and then figure out the circumstances. If you are aware that you’re carrying a disease that is dangerous to the public and society you of course have a responsibility,” police investigator Karl Näsman told SVT.

The woman is accused of “creating danger to another person” (framkallande av fara för annan), an offence that could see a person fined or sentenced to up to two years in jail if they are found guilty. 

Since the start of the outbreak, a total of 2,941 people have passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, in Sweden, according to the Public Health Agency’s figures.

Younger people without underlying illnesses seem to generally be far less at risk of developing serious illness than older people, as for example these graphs from Stockholm’s regional health authorities suggest. But health officials are now looking into whether or not a young child may have died from the virus, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters at health authorities’ daily press conference.

A total of 23,918 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Sweden to date. Many of the new cases that have appeared in recent days are due to increased testing of healthcare staff, according to Tegnell.

Sweden’s state epidemiologist Tegnell has spoken in a new interview about what is working and what is not working about the country’s coronavirus strategy. You may find it interesting:

May 5th:

As we wrote in yesterday’s entry of this blog, Stockholm health chief Björn Eriksson this week presented a new breakdown of how the coronavirus has affected the region, including the differences between age groups. We have written a bit more in depth in this article about the statistics he showed reporters.

Since the start of the outbreak, a total of 2,854 people have passed away after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, according to the Public Health Agency’s daily update. 

A total of 1,604 people have been in intensive care, which includes fatalities and patients who have recovered and been discharged. The number of new patients in need of intensive care is decreasing, said deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten, but there is still a lot of pressure on the healthcare sector as many of the patients need lengthy stays in hospital. 

There have been 23,216 confirmed cases of the coronavirus so far. The number of new cases is increasing in some parts of Sweden beyond Stockholm, with Wallensten especially highlighting Skåne in southern Sweden at today’s press conference. However, he said that a large proportion of the new cases was due to the fact that more people with mild symptoms are being tested, including key workers, instead of only testing hospital patients with serious symptoms. Skåne health authorities have so far confirmed 899 cases of the coronavirus.

Asked by a journalist at the press conference whether or not Sweden was thinking of changing the recommendations concerning face masks, after a group of researchers urged people to use face masks in public spaces, Wallensten said that a group at the Public Health Agency was looking at the issue and would announce the agency’s view “in a couple of days”. 

Many countries have urged residents to use face masks, but Sweden’s position has so far been that unless you work in a healthcare-related profession it is not necessary, and that it is better to keep your distance to other people and wash your hands – with one of the concerns being that using face masks risks leading to a false sense of security, which could in turn lead to people not following other health and safety guidelines.

Sweden’s healthcare watchdog IVO is now set to take a closer look at how Stockholm hospitals have prioritised intensive care admissions during the coronavirus epidemic. Read the latest here.

May 4th:

The number of reported deaths after testing positive for the coronavirus has risen to 2,769 in Sweden. That’s 90 more than the previous day, but a delay in reporting is usual after the weekend, so it is likely to rise more steeply over the next few days.

Just over 1,500 people have been treated in intensive care for the virus since the start of the outbreak, with 509 people being treated as of May 4th.

Today’s press conference focused on the number of deaths in elderly care homes in different parts of the country and the routines that could prevent further such deaths, something which the Public Health Agency announced earlier today it was focusing on looking into. 

The graphs below, shared at the press conference, show the proportion of total cases which were reported in care homes as well as how cases in care homes have been divided between different regions. 

We heard that 212 of 400 elderly care homes in the Stockholm region have reported cases of the virus, and at least 21 out of 41 such homes in the Sörmland region.

Per Follin, Region Stockholm’s infectious disease doctor, said that a range of measures were taken in the capital to reduce the risk of infection within care homes, including changed cleaning routines, visiting bans, changes to how staff and residents interacted, and protective material for staff.

But surveys carried out with care home management showed that infection rates were higher at homes where staff continued to work after being sick. Follin said it wasn’t possible however to pinpoint significant differences between homes which reported infections and those which didn’t, but homes gave several suggestions of how the infection could have come into the residence, including via residents who had been in hospital or recently moved in, visits from relatives, or asymptomatic but infected staff. The Public Health Agency will continue investigating how the infection spread, and how it could have been prevented.

Also at today’s press conference, Karin Tegmark-Wisell, head of the Public Health Agency’s microbiology department, said that it seemed that people had a full or partial protection from the virus after being infected. However, she said that there are differences between individuals and that the level of immunity appears to reduce over time.

The question of immunity will be important as countries work out how to gradually return to normal life and ease the restrictions currently in place to curb the spread of the virus – but the conference today also emphasised that we are a long way off that situation in Sweden.

The number of new deaths linked to the coronavirus in Stockholm is slowly decreasing week-on-week, but the situation remains serious, regional health director Björn Eriksson stressed at a press conference today.

“I now turn to all Stockholmers. That we can see a glimmer of light does not mean that we do not need to keep our distance,” he said, emphasising that it is more important than ever to follow recommendations. The number of patients discharged from hospital is increasing, but the total number of patients remains high.

“It is necessary that Stockholmers do not accept standing in crowded bars and restaurants, that we do not invite each other over for dinners, that we skip barbecue evenings with friends and most importantly that we do not go to visit family members aged over 70,” said Eriksson, adding that it will likely take months before it is over.

Eriksson has previously used the word “storm” to describe the situation in Stockholm healthcare, and he said that even if there were small signs the wind may be subsiding, it was still “at full storm and full wind speed”. 

A total of 1,428 people have passed away in Stockholm – the epicentre of the outbreak in Sweden – after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to figures dated May 2nd. On the same day, 955 coronavirus patients were being treated in hospital, compared to the peak of 1,102 in mid-April. A total of 193 coronavirus patients were in intensive care in Stockholm, down from the peak of 229 on April 20th. But the number of new confirmed cases and newly admitted patients has remained steady and high in the past four weeks, with around 1,400 new cases confirmed in Stockholm a week according to graphs presented by Eriksson.

We are picking up this live blog after the long weekend, when Sweden’s health authorities did not give press conferences (although they did update the new figures daily on their website). Here’s a new interview the TT news agency did with deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten about why Sweden is seeing such a high death toll compared to its Nordic neighbours:

April 30th:

“I think there’s a perception out there that Sweden has not put in place control measures and has just allowed the disease to spread. Nothing could be further from the truth: Sweden has put in place a very strong public health policy around physical distancing, around caring for and protecting people in long term facilities and many other things,” said Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme, in response to a question from a journalist at Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet yesterday. You can listen to his comments and make up your own minds in this video:

It was clearly a sharp rebuke of a widespread narrative that has emerged of the Swedish strategy, and casts doubts on those who have assumed that Swedish health authorities do not enjoy the support of the WHO. But interpreting it as the final stamp of approval is perhaps not correct either. As Ryan said, Sweden has certainly suffered its share of problems, and whether or not the strategy as a whole is successful remains to be seen.

Domestically, the Swedish strategy has faced both support and resistance. Five researchers in Sweden today published an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper calling on Sweden to change the approach from a “brake strategy” to a “hammer and dance” strategy (mitigation versus suppression), arguing that Sweden’s Nordic neighbours who have had more forceful restrictions in place have seen fewer deaths so far.

The Public Health Agency has been giving daily (Monday-Friday) press conferences in Sweden during the coronavirus crisis, together with the National Board of Health and Welfare, the Civil Contingencies Agency and occasionally a few other relevant government agencies. We’ve covered them every day on The Local. But there’s no press conference today on Walpurgis Eve, and there will not be one tomorrow on May Day. 

The Public Health Agency will however still be releasing daily figures of how the virus is spreading in Sweden on its website, at 2pm every day, and you can follow them here (in Swedish). 

Thursday’s figures show that 21,092 people have so far tested positive for the virus in Sweden, 1,476 people have been in intensive care since the start of the outbreak, and 2,586 people have sadly passed away. 

Health officials would normally spend the daily press conference explaining the figures to us, but for now you may find these articles helpful:

The Public Health Agency’s director-general Johan Carlson did however give a press conference today together with Sweden’s Health Minister Lena Hallengren, to explain Sweden’s new testing strategy.

He said: “This is not over. We may be at the end of the beginning, possibly, but we have a long way to go. We are hopefully seeing a slightly brighter picture ahead of us in Stockholm, the curve isn’t rising sharply.

“Stockholm has also reported slightly less pressure on intensive care, but the pressure is still high and the problem will be around for a long time, and we’re seeing increased spread of infection in many parts of the country.”

We have previously written here at The Local about Sweden’s plans to ramp up testing, and Hallengren outlined a bit more today how that would work. She said the list of priority groups would be, in this order:

– patients in need of healthcare, people living in care homes, people in risk groups

– healthcare staff

– key staff in other areas important to society, for example police officers or rescue workers

– other employees

This list of priority groups was primarily for tests of ongoing infection, but it will largely apply also to tests for antibodies, reports the TT news agency. There is a lot of research being done in Sweden and elsewhere into antibodies, in the hope that patients who have had the coronavirus will develop some kind of immunity. But Hallengren stressed that we do not yet know that people do get immunity, or if they do, how long it lasts.

Today is Walpurgis Eve, normally one of the biggest spring celebrations in Sweden, but of course things look very different this year.

The advice to everyone in Sweden remains to avoid large gatherings and non-essential travel, stay home if you feel at all unwell, and keep a distance from other people in public. And some municipalities have taken extra measures to prevent spontaneous gatherings, including covering a public park in student city Lund with chicken manure. Read more in the article below:

Almost a third of residents at one Stockholm care home have died since the start of March, according to a report made by a safety representative to the Swedish Work Environment Authority, and seen by local newspaper Mitti.

“An extremely difficult situation at the home with, up to now, 27 dead out of the total of 96 elderly people. Up to half of the staff have been or are off sick,” the newspaper reported the letter to the Work Environment Authority as saying.

The letter did not state whether the residents died of Covid-19, but did request protective equipment and better routines relating to the coronavirus.

The five pubs and restaurants in Stockholm that were closed last weekend due to violations of social distancing rules have reopened after taking the measures requested by local infectious disease control units. The International Bar, Charles Dickens and The Central Bar were told on Wednesday they could reopen, after Carmen and Raw Sushi & Bowl were given the go-ahead on Tuesday.

But another restaurant, in Södertälje south of Stockholm, has been ordered to close due to violating the same rules. Crocs Inn was told to close due to crowding in the bar, according to Länstidningen.

April 29th: 

There are now more than three million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide. “We’re talking about numbers so large that it is starting to get difficult to grasp the scope. It has been a long time since the world experienced anything like this,” commented state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at the Public Health Agency’s daily briefing. “This is a virus we are going to have to live with for a very long time.”

More than 20,000 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, and 2,462 people have passed away. A total of 549 people are currently in intensive care, and an additional 1,884 people in other hospital units, said Taha Alexandersson, deputy crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

Tegnell said there were signs that fewer people were being admitted to intensive care, but that many of them needed lengthy stays in hospital before they recover, which puts pressure on healthcare in regions such as Stockholm, the epicentre of the outbreak in Sweden. He warned that the number of infections is increasing in other regions in Sweden, saying that one aspect of this could be more healthcare staff being tested – but he also urged everyone to keep following guidelines to help curb the spread of infection. 

“Halland has had for a long period have fairly few cases, but have started getting significantly more cases in the past few days,” said Tegnell. “We are also seeing a similar pattern in Värmland.”

The map below shows the number of confirmed infections in Sweden’s regions.

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Sweden’s Public Health Agency has updated its advice to urge pregnant women to be extra careful not to expose themselves to the risk of catching the coronavirus. On its website, it says that women at the later stages of pregnancy could be badly affected by a respiratory infection. It adds that pregnant women with other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure should take extra precautions. 

There have been “a few cases” of pregnant women being treated in intensive care in Sweden, says the Public Health Agency, but there appears to be no overall increased risk for pregnant women to develop more serious illness from the coronavirus than people in general – based on what is known about the virus so far. 

“We want to prevent that more pregnant women get seriously ill or need intensive care,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell in a statement on Wednesday.

You can read the Public Health Agency’s latest update here and the WHO’s recommendations for pregnant women here.

Swedish police and prosecutors are investigating whether or not Sweden’s Work Environment Act was violated at the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, causing the death of a 39-year-old nurse.

The nurse, who had been working with coronavirus patients, passed away at home last week after testing positive for the virus, as The Local reported at the time. A few days later health and safety representatives at the hospital reported a shortage of protective equipment and that deviations from the recommendations of the Public Health Agency had been made, according to a statement by Sweden’s prosecution authority.

“I have directed the police to hold interrogations and ask for written documentation. There is no individual suspect, we are now going to find out what happened,” said prosecutor Jennie Nordin.

Swedish newswire TT writes that health and safety representatives reported the nurse’s death to police, alleging that the protective equipment in the workplace did not live up to Public Health Agency standards. 

The hospital denied to comment when approached by TT, writing only: “The hospital follows recommendations for protective equipment from the Public Health Agency and WHO. We refer other questions to the police so as not to pre-empt the ongoing investigation. We have no further comments.”

Stockholm health authorities have released new figures that reveal a breakdown of how the region’s various areas have been affected by the outbreak. You can read more here, or go through the table below.

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April 28th:

A total of 2,355 people have died with the coronavirus in Sweden according to the figures reported by the Public Health Agency today. That’s an increase of 81 from the figure reported yesterday, but the way these reports happen means that’s not the same as the number of deaths in the last 24 hours.

“We are now checking with the death register and there may be more cases added. Of course every death from the virus is awful, and [the victims] must not be reduced to numbers, but it is also important to understand the numbers” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

He added: “This looks like a slowdown in the number of cases, and even cases at elderly care homes seem to have decreased somewhat.”

In the last 24 hours alone, ten further intensive care beds have been added to Sweden’s total number, bringing the number of total beds to 1,085. The total number of coronavirus patients being cared for in intensive care units was 544, and Johanna Sandwall, crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare, said that across the whole country, there was 30 percent spare capacity in intensive care.

But the situation varies significantly from region to region, and she said that in different parts of the country the spare capacity varied from 0 to 60 percent.

Asked which region had zero spare capacity, Sandwall said: “We are not making that data public, we are just saying that it varies. If you make this kind of information public, you can make the work harder [for healthcare workers].”

Asked about the possibilities for intensive care for care home residents, she explained: “People get intensive care based on the need for it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or at a care home, it’s about whether you can cope with the treatment. Since there is spare capacity, those who need intensive care are receiving it.”

Anders Tegnell was asked about differences in the guidelines that state authorities have given about the amount of distance to keep from others in public. Up until April, there was no reference to keeping distance or social distancing in the Public Health Agency’s guidelines, and since these were introduced the agency’s advice has differed from that of the 1177 healthcare service, for example, which advises standing two metres away from others.

Guidelines have also varied internationally, with some countries and institutions recommending a two-metre distance, and others advising one metre or 1.5 metres as a guideline.

“This is because there aren’t any clear answers which work in all situations, it also depends a lot on where you are and the situation you’re in,” Tegnell replied.

“As an individual, it’s important to remember that infection happens in situations when two people are very close to each other, especially face to face, that’s what you should be careful about. Setting a boundary, as is happening in restaurants and shops, is good, but as an individual the important thing to remember is that these are the situations [face-to-face contact, especially prolonged contact] where the risk of infection is, it doesn’t just happen because you happen to be 1.5 metres away from someone.” 

A journalist from Svenska Dagbladet asked about a report from the UK which suggested that a rare but dangerous infection could be linked to the coronavirus in children. Tegnell said there were no reports that this had been seen in Sweden, and added that it appeared to be rare in the UK, but that the Public Health Agency would look into any such reports in Sweden.

Scandinavian airline SAS has announced plans to lay off up to 40 percent of its workforce in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The move affects up to 1,900 full-time positions in Sweden as the airline warns it may take years for demand for air travel to return to pre-crisis levels. 

What will the coronavirus mean for the Swedish economy? According to Sweden’s central bank, the outbreak has ” completely changed the economic prospects for both Sweden and the rest of the world”. But the key interest rate remains unchanged at zero, for now.

To protect your personal finances in a time of uncertainty, experts recommend using credit cards for purchases where possible, and being wary of stocking up too much on gift cards:

Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare has published a new set of data about deaths caused by the coronavirus, and the death toll they have calculated is around 10 percent higher than Public Health Agency figures. 

The discrepancy is due to differences in how the two agencies have registered deaths. The National Board of Health and Welfare has looked at all deaths in which the coronavirus, also called Covid-19, is listed as the cause of death, whereas the Public Health Agency’s figures include all deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read more about the data in the article below:

April 27th:

The number of deaths with the coronavirus has risen to 2,274 in Sweden. Mondays usually see a small rise due to a reporting lag over weekends.

“Since we don’t have much data from which to draw conclusions today, we’ll go directly to this image which shows our strategy, to flatten the curve so much that the healthcare sector can deal with the situation. That’s our goal, along with protecting those that are especially vulnerable to serious illness,” said deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten, referring to the image below.


Image: Folkhälsomyndigheten

Wallensten emphasised that anyone with any symptoms of illness, including very mild symptoms, should stay at home and avoid social contacts, as should anyone aged over 70 or in another risk group. Everyone should avoid large gatherings and unnecessary travel, he said.

The biggest obstacle for the healthcare sector was limited protective clothing, Johanna Sandwall from the National Board of Health and Welfare said. 

Answering a question from a journalist, Wallensten said that the Public Health Agency and other relevant agencies are in regular discussion about the restrictions; whether stricter rules are needed and whether any of the restrictions currently in place can be relaxed. 

A reporter from Lilla Aktuellt, a news programme for children, asked for clear guidance on the social distancing rules, pointing out that while the 1177 healthcare service refers to the “two-metre rule”, the Public Health Agency has suggested that standing “at arm’s length” is sufficient.

“We don’t have an exact number because there are so many different circumstances people end up in, so there may be strange consequences,” said Wallensten. Asked what he would tell Lilla Aktuellt’s viewers, he said: “You should avoid someone coughing on you, and then you should stand a bit away. Think about keeping a bit of distance.”

Stockholm health officials have ordered five bars and restaurants in the Swedish capital to close after inspections found they had failed to observe social distancing rules. Restaurants and bars are currently only allowed to provide table service, with tables spaced one to two metres apart to prevent overcrowding.

Four out of five venues were located in the Södermalm district.

April 26th:

A total of 2,194 people have died with the coronavirus in Sweden, up from 2,152 people on Friday. It’s a relatively small increase compared to previous days (on Sunday only two new deaths were reported), which may be due to the delay in reporting, which we have written about several times on The Local. All figures are reported by each of Sweden’s 21 administrative regions to the Public Health Agency, which presents the figures it has received at 2pm every day. You can keep up-to-date with those figures yourself via this link.

April 25th:

We have just published our full interview with Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin about the coronavirus situation in Sweden. In the interview, she speaks about:

  • The epidemic’s impact on the lives of immigrant communities in Sweden
  • What she thinks the government should do to help work permit holders
  • The biggest myth about Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, in her view
  • What would prompt the government to introduce stricter measures
  • How Sweden’s climate work has been affected by the coronavirus

April 24th:

Life in Sweden is absolutely not going on as normal, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin told The Local’s Editor Emma Löfgren as she warned the government was prepared to take stronger measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The full interview will be published tomorrow, but you can already read a teaser here

A total of 17,567 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Sweden, up from 16,755 on Thursday. After a few days when it looked like the curve was stabilising, the number of new cases is again “at a higher level”, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at the Public Health Agency’s daily press briefing.

He said three reasons are believed to be behind the increase: More healthcare staff are being tested for the virus (with around half to a third of those believed to be behind the increase), more people in elderly care homes are being tested, and a general increase of more people admitted to hospital with the virus.


The number of coronavirus cases in Sweden. The black line shows a rolling seven-day average. Photo: Public Health Agency

In slightly more positive news amid all the bad news, people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks are younger than in previous weeks, said Tegnell. This means that the new cases are not primarily in the over-70 group, who run the risk of developing serious illness if infected by the virus.

The number of people in intensive care remains at a stable level, with 1,256 treated in intensive care units so far (this number includes both people who have recovered and some of those who have passed away). 

A total of 2,152 people have passed away with the coronavirus in Sweden. A delay in the reporting of new deaths, which we have talked about on The Local several times, seems to be getting worse at the moment, with Tegnell saying that it could be the Easter holiday that is causing this – like in many other countries Sweden generally tends to report fewer cases over weekends and more cases during the week.


The number of deaths in Sweden. The green columns show deaths registered in the past 24 hours. Photo: Public Health Agency

Tegnell also presented fatality rates in general, and said that there had been almost 1,000 more deaths than in a normal year in the weeks March 23rd-April 5th. He said this matches up “almost exactly” with how many coronavirus-related deaths were reported during those weeks, which can be interpreted as Sweden’s total coronavirus death toll being close to the actual number of coronavirus deaths.

Sweden generally sees relatively few deaths in summer and an increase during cold winters, very hot summers and intense flu seasons. 

In a week where Sweden’s prime minister issued a stark warning to the population that coronavirus restrictions will remain in place for months and may yet get stricter, these pictures give a glimpse into the impact that the coronavirus has had on people’s lives across the country.


A photo taken on April 22nd in the Swedish capital. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

April 23rd:

There have been 16,755 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Sweden so far, up from 16,004 the day before. The Public Health Agency’s deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten noted when presenting the figures at the agency’s daily press conference at 2pm that it was a relatively large increase on the previous day. He said they were looking into why, but that “we are not seeing a downturn”. 

He said that Stockholm was behind a lot of the new cases, adding that one possible reason could be that more healthcare staff are now being tested, but “we don’t think that’s the whole explanation”. However, he said that the majority of the new cases did not appear to be in the group of over-70s, who tend to be among the people who are particularly at risk of becoming seriously ill after contracting the coronavirus.

A total of 2,021 people have died with the new coronavirus in Sweden and a total of 1,217 people have been treated in intensive care since the start of the outbreak (including both people who have recovered or may have passed away). The number of people currently in intensive care (524) remains stable.

Wallensten also corrected figures published in a report by the Public Health Agency on Tuesday, which was almost immediately retracted after a journalist noted incorrect figures in the presentation. 

He said that the report had now been corrected, and that the main conclusion remained the same apart from minor changes: it now names April 8th, rather than April 15th, as the date when most people were contagious, and that 26 percent of Stockholmers are expected to have contracted the virus by May 1st.

The main error in the report, that there were around 1,000 times as many people infected by the coronavirus  as the number of confirmed cases (1,000 times the number of confirmed cases in Sweden would amount to more than the country’s entire population), had happened when a wrong variable was added in when creating the model. The correct figure is an estimation of 75 cases per each confirmed case in Stockholm.

Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital confirms that one of its staff members has passed away with the coronavirus.

“It is with sadness we can confirm that a nurse employed at the hospital who was Covid-positive has died. We mourn a valued and skilled colleague and our thoughts go to the nurse’s family,” a senior official at Karolinska told Swedish newspapers on Thursday.

“The nurse was on sick leave for her Covid-19 symptoms and passed away at home. The exact cause of death is not known, and due to personal integrity the hospital will make no further comments.”

According to Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, which first reported the news, the nurse, who was in her 40s, wrote on Facebook on Friday that she and several colleagues had been feeling unwell and been tested for the coronavirus, also often referred to as Covid-19.

“Pray for me that the test is negative so that we can continue to take care of those who need us,” she wrote.

Inspections of pubs and restaurants in Sweden have not yet led to any closures, but the warm spring weather and upcoming bank holiday will be a test for Sweden’s social distancing rules, and several restaurants have already received warnings.

Per Follin, infectious disease doctor for Region Stockholm, says that the infectious disease control unit has received reports of violations of the rules, but that no restaurants have been closed yet.

The regional infectious disease doctors and municipalities have the power to order closure of places that break Sweden’s rules, which require restaurants to offer table service only and take other measures to reduce the risk of infection. That includes spacing out tables and ensuring customers keep a distance in queues and at other crowded areas.

Read more:

In Stockholm, around 200 such inspections have been carried out since the rules came into force in late March, as well as a further 50 follow-up inspections, according to the TT newswire.

In Gothenburg, 132 inspections last weekend led to four reports of “serious violations”, but the restaurants reportedly took measures to address these, after a dialogue with the municipality and infectious disease control unit. And in Malmö, around 15 inspections took place last weekend, leading to only one report to the infectious disease control unit.

Commenting on the problem at Wednesday’s press conference, Health Minister Lena Hallengren said the problem was most pronounced in larger cities.

“Many parts of the country don’t have overly full restaurant terraces, I think it’s something that is happening mostly in Stockholm. On the whole, we are very good at following the recommendations,” she said. “If you are told to make changes and you do that, I don’t see any value in closing restaurants.”

April 22nd:

The National Board of Health and Welfare will soon be asked to distribute free hand sanitiser to elderly care homes and home care assistants, Health Minister Lena Hallengren announced in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

At the same press conference, Public Health Agency general director Johan Carlson said that upcoming celebrations, including Ramadan and Walpurgis, should be celebrated “with your own household” rather than in groups.

Carlson reminded the public: “Even if we’re seeing signs of a flattening [of the infection curve] in Stockholm we still have continued spread of infection in the country. To keep the curve down, it requires everyone to take responsibility, otherwise it will pick up again.” 

“The danger is far from over,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, opening a press conference in which he urged everyone in Sweden to keep following the recommendations of the state authorities.

Unlike some other countries, the Prime Minister and other ministers are not always present at the daily updates on the situation, which instead are led by the Public Health Agency, but Löfven has addressed the nation several times since the start of the crisis. Aside from an address to the nation in late March, these have usually been in order to announce new measures, but today’s press conference was held to underline the importance of following the official guidelines.

Here is the rest of the Prime Minister’s speech this afternoon, as translated by The Local:

“The sun is shining over almost all of our beautiful country. But it is not the number of hours of sunshine, and it’s not the temperature which determine whether we listen to our authorities’ recommendations or not. Thus far, an overwhelming majority of the population has taken responsibility, and this has made it possible for the healthcare sector to manage and do its job. But it is not the time to relax.

“I know that this is a tough time. It can seem monotonous and hard, but I want to once again stress the seriousness of this moment. Don’t think for a moment that we’ve got through this crisis yet; the situation is still serious. There is still capacity in the healthcare, true, but the situation is stretched. People are getting ill, people are getting very ill, people are dying, and every day more Swedes are personally affected by this illness and its consequences.

“So it is not the time to relax the restrictions and recommendations. On the contrary, the government is ready to make further decisions if it should be needed in order to reduce the spread of infection. 

“All pubs should know that infectious disease doctors and municipalities can, during inspections, close restaurants and bars if they don’t follow the rules that apply. As guests, keep a distance in pubs, cafes, keep a distance in the queues for ice cream vans.

“By following these recommendations, you are now taking responsibility so that the healthcare sector can do its job, [you are taking responsibility] for your neighbour who is perhaps over 70, and for your colleague who has diabetes. This spring didn’t turn out as anyone planned it, but we are taking responsibility for something that is greater than each of us, responsibility for the collective.”

“Several public holidays are coming up. Walpurgis, as many of us know it, is cancelled. Follow the new recommendations that the Public Health Agency will soon publish.”

“Summer 2020 will be unusual. Weddings, student celebrations, and festivals have already been cancelled, other similar events will be cancelled. Summer plans will be changed, Midsummer celebrations will in all likelihood be different. The Foreign Ministry has decided to advise against non-essential overseas trips up until June 15th, and that’s a decision that may be extended. If you’re planning a holiday in summer, you should be prepared that there will be great uncertainty around the ability to travel.”

“Keep on keeping a distance, protecting risk groups and washing your hands often and very thoroughly. Together we’ll get through this because together we have to get through it, and that’s our responsibility to ourselves, to our fellow citizens, and to our society.”

Asked what individuals should do if they see, for example, an overcrowded cafe terrace, Löfven advised contacting the local municipality.

“It is completely understandable that people want to know when they can start living their normal lives. We can’t give a date. Don’t think weeks, think months, and that applies even if it’s lovely weather,” he said at the conclusion of the press conference. 

The total number of reported deaths with the coronavirus in Sweden has reached 1,937, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said at the daily press conference. In total, just over 16,000 people have tested positive for the virus.

“The curve is quite straight now, since the start of April actually. That’s very good news, although the situation in Stockholm is pressed,” said Tegnell. “You can also see a large number of cases in other regions, which can be down to the fact that more [healthcare] staff are being tested.”

This means that more young people, who generally experience less serious symptoms of the virus, are now showing up in the statistics, he explained. This could be part of the reason why the curve – that’s the number of daily reported cases – is rising in places like Västra Götaland, Jönköping and Uppsala, while it has started to flatten in Stockholm. 

Both Tegnell and the representatives of the other Swedish authorities at the meeting emphasised the need for everyone in the country to keep following the recommendations currently in place. Those include working from home if possible, avoiding gatherings with lots of people and keeping a distance from others in public places; you can find the full list here.

Taha Alexandersson from the National Board of Health and Welfare warned: “There is no reason to believe that we don’t need to follow the Public Health Agency’s recommendations, no matter how nice the springtime weather is or how much it looks like the curve is starting to stabilise.

“Society must continue to follow the authorities’ recommendations and use common sense. This is so that hospital staff are able to keep going and give care, including to those affected by things that aren’t related to Covid-19,” she added.

Alexandersson also said that 40 percent of the country’s regions had reported a serious need for protective equipment. 

A total of 536 people are currently in intensive care for the virus as of April 22nd, a figure which has remained relatively stable over the past week as the number of available beds continues to increase and currently stands at 1,130.

Tegnell was also asked if those areas which have so far seen a far smaller spread of the virus – such as the island of Gotland, with only 19 confirmed cases – will see this trend continue. The state epidemiologist replied that he would be surprised if all Sweden’s regions didn’t end up with a similar level of infection “in the long term”. As for whether it will be possible to travel between the mainland and Gotland in summer, he said it was “far too early to say”.

And he said that restrictions in place for over-70s, who have been told to stay at home as much as possible and avoid public places including shops, will remain in place for “many months”.

The Public Health Agency has withdrawn its report on the model of the coronavirus spread in Stockholm, which it shared yesterday at the daily press conference. The report had suggested that by May 1st, a third of Stockholm’s population would have contracted the coronavirus.

On its Twitter account, the agency wrote: “We have discovered an error in the report and the report authors are currently going through the material again. We will republish the report as soon as it is ready”. They said they would share more information about the nature of the error once this was done.

The report said that there were around 1,000 times as many people infected by the coronavirus in Sweden as the number of confirmed cases, a figure that was questioned by Swedish journalist Emanuel Karlsten at the press conference as it did not match up with the rest of the report’s figures. There are currently over 15,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Sweden, and 1,000 times this figure would amount to more than the country’s entire population.

Asked by a reporter from Ekot what the error was, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that an updated version of the report would be ready by tomorrow (April 23rd) and that the wrong variable was added in at the start when creating the model.

But Tegnell said that two of the report’s main conclusions – that the peak would have been reached around April 15th, and that by May 1st around a third of Stockholmers would have been infected – were not affected by the error.

He also said that none of the agency’s recommendations and measures had been put in place based on this report.

This news comes as another report on the spread of the coronavirus in Stockholm – this one by researchers at Karolinska University Hospital and the Karolinska Institute – has also been withdrawn by its authors. 

That report suggested that at least 11 out of 100 had developed antibodies, with the real figure believed to be higher. At the time of publication, clinical microbiologist Jan Albert said the research was still at an early stage, saying: “You cannot draw conclusions about the exact percentages, but we know that those 11 percent have had (the coronavirus). It is not enough for a research report, but too important to keep under wraps.”

Today Albert told SVT that the researchers were “not confident” about their results.

April 21st:

Why did Sweden choose to introduce advice around social distancing in early April?

Health Minister Lena Hallengren referred to social distancing on March 24th, saying Swedes should call friends and relatives rather than meet them in person if possible, but when The Local contacted the Public Health Agency that day, we were told there was no recommendation to keep a distance from other people in public. The agency introduced social distancing guidelines one week later on April 1st, which require members of the public to keep a distance from others in public.

The Local Sweden’s editor Emma Löfgren asked deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten why the decision was taken to introduce the measure at that point.

“Our strategy has always been to introduce the measures at the time when they were necessary, at the point in the spread of infection when we have noticed that they are needed – perhaps a bit later than in other countries – but that’s been our aim,” responded Wallensten. 

The Local also asked, in relation to social distancing, what guidance applied to single people and dating. Denmark’s health chief yesterday gave the green light to dating in the neighbouring country, saying: “Sex is good. Sex is healthy. We are sexual beings, and of course you can have sex in this situation. As with any other human contact, there is a risk of infection. But of course one must be able to have sex.”

So what applies in Sweden?

“That’s a hard question. We have social distancing which is one of the factors [in reducing the spread of infection]. Within close relationships it’s another matter,” Wallensten replied. “But above all we’re avoiding large gatherings of people and travel, and those are the guidelines that apply above all.” Read more here.

Has Stockholm reached its peak? The Public Health Agency presented a new modelling of the spread of the coronavirus in the Swedish capital at today’s press conference, which is based both on reported cases as well as random testing which took place in the city in early April.

According to the statisticians who worked on the model, most new cases were reported in Stockholm on April 15th. By May 1st, the model suggests that a third of the city’s residents will have had the infection.

“The peak may have been reached just under a week ago, according to this model, and then we can expect fewer cases per day,” explained deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten. He added that this does not mean people should take a more relaxed attitude to the country’s guidance on reducing the spread of infection.

The number of people who have died with the coronavirus in Sweden has risen to 1,765, the Public Health Agency reported at their daily press conference.

The number of confirmed cases has reached 15,322, while a total of 1,158 people have been treated in intensive care for the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak.

Here’s a look at how those cases are distributed across the country.

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Over recent weeks, there’s been a trend that it takes a few days for the reported figures to catch up after delays over the weekend. Deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten said: “You can see a bit of an uptick after the weekend, but not very much. If you look at a rolling seven-day average, you can see that the curve is starting to flatten.” 

Wallensten said that the agency forecasts that by May 1st, a third of Stockholm residents will have had the virus. The capital city has been the epicentre of the outbreak in Sweden, with a far higher proportion of known coronavirus cases and deaths than any other region. As noted below, scientists don’t yet know to what extent, or for how long, people who have recovered from the virus are immune to re-infection.

Wallensten emphasised how important it is that everyone continues to follow the restrictions in place, “even if it seems that we have reached this plateau”. Here’s a reminder of what those restrictions are (paywall-free). This is to ensure that the healthcare sector remains able to handle the numbers of patients without being overwhelmed.

Asked whether Sweden would follow Denmark, which plans to allow events of up to 500 people from early May, Wallensten said “we have no plans for this”.

A journalist from EuroNews asked what the advantages of Sweden’s strategy were, compared to the stricter lockdowns we’ve seen elsewhere.

Wallensten replied: “One advantage is that these more voluntary restrictions can be upheld for a longer time. If you close the society completely then there is of course more stress on the economy et cetera, this is a bit milder in that sense which means it is probably more accepted by people in general, but I think also perhaps more effective in the sense that it feels reasonable, so it’s a combination of those.” 

A new coronavirus test of blood taken from blood donors in Stockholm shows that at least 11 out of 100 had developed antibodies, with the real figure believed to be higher.

The research, which is still at an early stage, is being carried out by the Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital.

The test is only 70-80 percent sensitive; according to the researchers there will be no false positives, but there may be false negatives, that is people who test negative despite having had the coronavirus.

“You cannot draw conclusions about the exact percentages, but we know that those 11 percent have had (the coronavirus). It is not enough for a research report, but too important to keep under wraps,” clinical microbiologist Jan Albert told broadcaster SVT.

The test is set to be rolled out to more people today. 

Researchers in several countries have been working to develop antibody tests for the coronavirus, in the hope that knowing how many have had the virus will help guide future strategies. However, much remains unknown about the virus, and the World Health Organisation has warned that there is no conclusive evidence yet that people who have recovered from the virus are immune and cannot be infected again. 

April 20th:

In the fight against the coronavirus, Sweden has stood out for its focus on voluntary measures rather than enforcing a lockdown. But could that change? As more and more countries start to slowly ease restrictions, The Local’s Catherine Edwards looks at how likely it is that Sweden will head in the opposite direction.

A total of 1,580 people have passed away with the new coronavirus, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at the Public Health Agency’s daily 2pm briefing. That’s an increase of 40 compared to yesterday, but that does not mean they are all from the past 24 hours. The figure is usually low on Mondays compared to mid-week, as there is a delay in how new deaths are reported, especially over the weekend. 

A total of 14,777 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 1,133 treated in intensive care since the start of the outbreak (including both people who have recovered and some who have passed away).

Tegnell urged people to keep following the official recommendations (which include good hand hygiene and keeping your distance to other people) after “worrying reports” that more people were going out to eat at restaurants. The health agency has issued guidelines on keeping a distance to other customers.

Asked by a reporter at French TV BFM whether a total lockdown was still possible in Sweden in the coming weeks or months, Tegnell said: “With this disease I would say that anything is possible, but I think the likelihood of us going that way gets smaller and smaller over time.”

Watch the daily press conference (in Swedish) here:

 

Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare has identified a number of risk factors thought to be linked to more serious symptoms of the coronavirus, adding obesity and cancer treatments to the list.

These are some of the factors identified as risk groups: old age (70 years old or older); obesity (a BMI of 40 or higher); intellectual disability and impaired mobility (multiple disabilities); cancer, or ongoing or recently concluded treatment for cancer; neuromuscular diseases such as Parkinson, MS and ALS with an impact on muscle function.

As well as those, people with at least two of the following conditions: cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes with complications, chronic kidney disease or renal failure, chronic lung disease (other than asthma) or chronic liver disease, were considered a risk group, as were people with other serious illnesses that affect certain organ functions or the body’s defences against viral infections. The latter group includes immunodeficiencies or damage to the spinal cord with need of continual breathing support.

Read more in the article below:

Sweden adds obesity to list of coronavirus high risk groups

Several reports, and pictures of for example near-emtpy metro trains, suggest that many people in Sweden have changed their behaviour during the coronavirus outbreak. But as the weekend brought sun and spring warmth to Sweden, warnings of revellers ignoring official instructions to keep your distance emerged.

“We could easily see that several bars had far more of the recommended number of guests,” wrote the Swedish capital’s police on Facebook as they posted a picture of crowds on Södermalm island in the early hours of Sunday, see below.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency last month issued new restrictions for bars and restaurants, including that they must offer table service only and that tables must be placed far enough apart that customers are able to keep their distance. But the individual responsibility of customers has also been emphasised.

If a venue fails to stick to the rules, they risk losing their permit. Stockholm city council officials have inspected more than 200 bars and restaurants since April 7th, and found reasons to formally criticise around 30 of them. A total of 29 inspections were carried out on Saturday, leading to five official warnings.

Gothenburg officials also said they had been out checking that rules were being met in bars and restaurants, with a mixed result reported according to the TT newswire.

The Public Health Agency last week urged people to keep respecting social distancing rules.

“People have relaxed. But we have to persevere and avoid meeting each other in this way,” Anna Starbring, healthcare councillor in Stockholm, told TT.

April 19th:

Another 29 people have been reported dead with the coronavirus in Sweden. The number of reported deaths has now risen to a total of 1,540 according to the latest statistics from the Public Health Authority.

There have been 14,385 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up from 13,822 the day before. Since the start of the outbreak, 1,079 people have been in intensive care, which also includes fatalities and patients who have recovered and been discharged.

According to the Public Health Authority, there is often a lag in reporting during the weekends, which is why it is difficult to draw any clear conclusions from figures presented at that time.

However Anders Tegnell, state epidemiologist at the Public Health Authority, told TT News that the figures indicate that the spread of infection in Sweden seems to have stabilised – even in elderly care.

April 18th:

The total number of reported deaths with the coronavirus has reached 1,511. That's an increase of 111 from yesterday's figure. Since the start of the outbreak, 1,054 people have been in intensive care, which also includes fatalities and patients who have recovered and been discharged. There have been 13,822 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of April 18th, up from 13,216 the day before.

People in Sweden with foreign backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, according to the country’s Public Health Agency, raising fears that a “blind spot” is masking the spread of the coronavirus in some communities. Read more here:

Coronavirus outbreak in Sweden raises fears of ‘blind spot’ in some communities

April 17th:

The total number of reported deaths with the coronavirus has reached 1,400, Karin Tegmark Wisell of the Public Health Agency said at today’s daily briefing. That’s an increase of 67 from yesterday’s figure, but this isn’t the same as the number of deaths that occurred in the last 24 hours.

A reporting lag means that not all deaths are reported within 24 hours, particularly those which occur outside hospitals, as the graph below shows:

The number of cases confirmed in Sweden has reached 13,216, and Tegmark Wisell said there was a “downward trend” in the number of new reported cases. “There is still a large number of deaths per day, but we aren’t seeing an upward trend; rather a slowdown,” she explained.

At the same time, she stressed the importance that everyone in Sweden continue following official recommendations, “otherwise there is a risk that we will see an increase [in the rise in cases] again”.

The table below shows how the confirmed cases are distributed across the country’s regions.

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The number of people being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care remains relatively stable at 528 (up from 525 yesterday, but still down from 530 the day before). Including non-coronavirus patients, a total of 856 people are currently in Sweden’s ICUs. There are currently 1,072 intensive care beds in Sweden – double the figure from before the crisis – and capacity is continually being increased.

Tegmark Wisell said that 20,000 people were tested for the coronavirus in Sweden over the past week. We heard from the Health Minister earlier today that plans are underway to increase that figure to 50,000-100,000 tests weekly over the next few weeks, with a focus on key workers including police officers and emergency responders.

Sweden’s Health and Social Care Inspectorate will carry out 1,000 inspections of elderly care homes around the country, where a large proportion of deaths with coronavirus have taken place. Part of the aim is to assist the homes in implementing routines for good hygiene and protection against infection.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that coronavirus tests will be rolled out to many more people in socially important roles, while warning that “thousands” will die of the virus in Sweden, speaking at a press conference this morning.

“The situation is still serious with many infected every day. We will have to count the dead in the thousands and that’s what we’re doing now. Behind every figure is a person. A reminder to everyone who is healthy, take responsibility,” Löfven said, urging people to follow official recommendations such as keeping distance from others in public and staying at home if showing any symptoms.

“In intensive care, people are working under a lot of pressure, and Sweden’s unbelievably talented healthcare workers have doubled the number of intensive care beds in just a few weeks. I want to say a warm thank you, money will not be a problem, the state will pay the costs whatever the bill ends up being,” he continued.

Löfven also said that the situation within elderly care was “serious” and that efforts to protect older people in Sweden “need to be intensified”.

Many more people will be tested for the virus, particularly those in socially important functions or key workers, Health Minister Lena Hallengren explained at the same press conference.

Hallengren said Sweden was aiming to test between 50,000 and 100,000 people per week, and to reach that target within a few weeks’ time, although she said it was “hard to give an accurate forecast of when we can reach those numbers”.

This doesn’t mean it will be possible to have general tests for members of the public with symptoms. Instead, people in key roles such as police officers, rescue services, and others will be offered tests in addition to more healthcare and care workers.

It’s incorrect to say things are continuing as normal in Sweden, Foreign Minister Ann Linde stressed in an online press conference with foreign journalists. Sweden’s lack of lockdown has drawn attention from international media, with some highlighting criticism from Swedish scientists who argue the current approach is risky.

Linde said: “We’re working with the same challenges as other countries, in managing the scale and speed of the spread of the virus and the pressure on healthcare, and we use the same tools as most other countries: encouraging physical distance, protecting people at risk, carrying out tests and strengthening the healthcare sector in order to manage the pandemic.”

She added that many changes have indeed taken place in Sweden, both at the national and individual level and affecting both society and the economy:

“Many people are staying at home and have stopped traveling. Many companies are collapsing. Unemployment is expected to increase dramatically. There are a large number of new laws and recommendations that affect the entire community. There is no total closure of Sweden, but many parts of Swedish society have closed down. Many Swedes are heavily affected.”

Health Minister Lena Hallengren, who was also present at the press conference, said she did not believe the Swedish approach differed much from that in other countries.

She said the two major differences was that Sweden has not closed schools for children under 16, and that people have not been forced to stay indoors using a lockdown, instead opting for a combination of laws and recommendations to achieve a similar effect.

A Swedish-American astronaut has returned to a very different earth after 205 days in space, including participation in the first all-women spacewalk last October.

Jessica Meir arrived in Kazakhstan at 7.16am Swedish time, and will return to the US where she lives.

She said in a statement: “It is very surreal for us to follow what is happening on earth and see it develop when we have been up here all the time. It feels like we are coming back to a completely different planet.” But after more than six months in isolation at the space station, the Swedish National Space Agency noted the astronauts would be well-prepared for isolation.

More people than ever have applied to study as nurses in the autumn term as part of a surge in university and college admissions.

Applications for further education courses as a whole are at a record high, and were up by 13 percent when they closed on Thursday.

“This is a fantastic increase, and especially pleasing is the number of the [applications to] nursing programmes with have increased by 33 percent. It shows that many people have a great social commitment in the country,” said Karin Röding, general director of the University and Higher Education Council (UHR).

Elsewhere, furloughed workers including SAS cabin staff are undergoing a three-day intensive retraining course to be able to work in the care and healthcare sectors.

One of the trainees was none other than Sweden’s Princess Sofia, who is an honorary chair at Sophiahemmet, the hospital and training college where the course took place.

“Princess Sofia is at Sophiahemmet to relieve the regular assistants where help is needed,” the Royal Court’s communications secretary Johan Tegel told TT.

Read more in the article below:

Volvo is restarting European production today, after the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker suspended production almost a month ago. Around 80,000 people were temporarily laid off.

To begin with, staff will not go back to their full original hours, and extra safety measures will be in place.

April 16th:

Are Swedes naive or the only adults in the room? That’s a question asked by The Local’s reader Paul Jackson in a new opinion piece about Sweden’s different approach to tackling the coronavirus outbreak. Read it here.

The Swedish parliament has voted yes to a new bill which gives the government powers to make faster decisions if needed in order to fight the coronavirus.

The new temporary law makes changes to Sweden’s Communicable Diseases Act (Smittskyddslagen) which means the government will be able to for example impose a limit on crowds, close shopping centres and venues such as restaurants or gyms or close transport hubs, without first asking parliament.

Sweden’s comparatively lax coronavirus rules compared to a lot of its European neighbours have sparked debate both at home and abroad, but the new law should not necessarily be seen as a U-turn. We explain more about what the new government powers mean and don’t mean in this article, and you may also be interested in this analysis by international law professor Mark Klamberg at Stockholm University.

Importantly, the new powers, which are to come into force on April 18th, do not mean that the government will be able to impose a total lockdown. Such a decision would require a law change which would have to go through parliament.

It is “far too early” to start easing restrictions, said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven as he thanked those people in Sweden who had heeded calls not to travel during the Easter break. He urged people to keep following the advice of health authorities and do their utmost to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. “This is not about you, it is about your fellow human beings,” he said.

Sweden has not had a lockdown like most other European countries, with restrictions only including for example a ban on public events of more than 50 people, table service only in bars and restaurants, a ban on visits to elderly care homes, and recommendations to close schools for over-16s and universities.

But people are strongly urge to take precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Löfven told a press conference at 4pm that the government had decided to extend an entry ban on travel to the EU via Sweden, which was to run out this week, for another 30 days. Swedish citizens, residents and people with important reasons to come to Sweden will still be able to travel to Sweden.

The total number of confirmed deaths with the coronavirus in Sweden is now 1,333, according to the Public Health Agency. That’s an increase of 130 from yesterday, but reporting delays mean that this isn’t the number of people who have died in the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 12,540. Swedish health authorities had expected a sharp rise on Wednesday as previously unreported data from Easter came in, but that rise did not come. On Thursday, the number of new cases still had not increased as much as expected.

“It has increased slightly in the past 24 hours, but we’re still at the level we were at a couple of weeks ago. There was some kind of peak before the Easter weekend, and now there’s some kind of downturn,” Public Health Agency state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told the agency’s daily press conference at 2pm.


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases per day in Sweden. Photo: Sweden’s Public Health Agency

Sweden’s healthcare watchdog, the Health and Social Care Inspectorate, said earlier on Thursday that it was planning to carry out inspections of Swedish elderly care homes, which have been hit hard by the virus.

The situation is the worst in Stockholm (which is the region with the highest number of deaths and cases overall), where around half of all coronavirus deaths can be linked to care homes. The corresponding figure for the whole of Sweden is around a third, said Tegnell at the Public Health Agency’s press conference.

The comments from deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten on Wednesday that he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the situation in Sweden may have seemed strange on a day when 170 new deaths with coronavirus were reported.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that we know there is a reporting delay, especially over weekends, so that doesn’t mean that 170 deaths took place in 24 hours; overall, Sweden didn’t see increases over the Easter weekend as high as might have been expected. Wallensten did say that it would be important to see if that remained the case over the next few days, due to this reporting lag.

And as we’ve seen in other countries, the daily reported deaths will tend to be the last statistic which show the impact of measures taken. That’s because of the incubation time (the time between getting infected and experiencing symptoms) and the time between getting sick, being hospitalised, and dying. So other metrics like the daily reported cases and the numbers of people entering intensive care units are also useful to look at.

The numbers of people in Swedish intensive care units with the coronavirus meanwhile have remained relatively stable over the past week, actually dropping by around five between yesterday and the day before.

Still, it’s too early to claim that Sweden’s much-debated approach is paying off. Anders Wallensten told the TT newswire: “[The curve] is still low, and that gives cause for a certain optimism. In order to be sure that there’s no data problem or something similar we want to wait a few more days before we give any more definite statement, but it looks positive today.”

The Local will be covering the daily press conference from the Public Health Agency at 2pm today, when we’ll get the latest statistics and will hear more about how the situation looks in Sweden.

Region Stockholm has updated its figures showing how confirmed coronavirus cases are distributed across the region’s different municipalities. The rise in new cases in the northern suburbs of Rinkeby-Kista and Spånga-Tensta has slowed, according to the region, but the rate is rising in some southern parts of the city. Read more in the article below:

April 15th:

Stockholm’s Fotografiska Museum, one of the Sweden’s capital’s most popular attractions, has closed its doors until further notice and given notice to staff, after seeing a drop of 98 percent in visitors compared to a normal week.

Fotografiska CEO Per Broman told public broadcaster SVT that it had tried to prepare for the economic fallout of the coronavirus, including cutting work hours and using temporary layoffs, but it was not enough.

“And we don’t have time to wait for the support package that the government has advertised. The information about how and when it will help is unclear,” he said.

He added that Fotografiska would try to reopen again as soon as possible, and would try to re-recruit its employees when it did.


The Fotografiska Museum on a day in June last year. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

The total number of confirmed deaths with the coronavirus in Sweden is now 1,203, according to the Public Health Agency. That’s an increase of 170 from yesterday, but reporting delays over the Easter weekend especially mean that this isn’t the number of people who have died in the past 24 hours. 

Anders Wallensten, the deputy state epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency, said that there were in fact positive signs that the rise in daily reported cases had not been as steep as expected following these delays.

Of this slowdown, he said: “At the moment it looks like it’s a lasting decline, so I’m cautiously positive. However, we must wait to see if there is any lag [in reporting].”

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 11,927, while a total of 954 people have received treatment in Sweden’s intensive care units for the coronavirus. That figure includes everyone who has received intensive care treatment since the start of the outbreak, including those who have since recovered and been discharged, or who have passed away.

Johanna Sandwall, the head of crisis preparedness at The National Board of Health and Welfare, noted that 525 people were receiving treatment in intensive care for the virus today, five fewer than the previous day. She also reported that there was still plenty of spare capacity in Sweden’s intensive care units, where the number of beds is continually being increased.

How many cases have been confirmed in Skåne – and whereabouts in the region are they located? New detailed figures from the region give a breakdown, which you can find in the article below:

Malmö, the region’s capital and the third largest city in Sweden, has the most known cases at 60. It is followed by Lund with 28 known cases, Kristianstad with 27, and Helsingborg with 26. Hässleholm has 11 confirmed cases, but no other municipality in the region has ten or more known cases. As with the national statistics, this isn’t an accurate picture of how many people currently have the virus; the majority of people who catch the coronavirus are able to recover at home without hospital care, and these people are currently not tested.

Sweden’s unemployment figures could rise to 13.5 percent this year if the coronavirus crisis drags on, according to a worst-case scenario presented by the government today. In the best-case scenario, unemployment will quickly recover and climb back to roughly today’s level, and in the main scenario unemployment will rise from 6.8 percent last year to 9.0 percent this year. Read the full article here.

April 14:

A total of 1,033 people have died in Sweden after testing positive for the new coronavirus. However, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell emphasised that “it’s probably the figure we can trust the least today”, as there is a delay in adding deaths that happened over the Easter holiday to the total statistics. More accurate figures are expected tomorrow.

Sweden has more deaths than for example Norway, and a major reason behind that may be that the infection has spread in a lot of elderly care homes in Stockholm, affecting some of the most vulnerable risk groups. Health authorities are now trying to look at how to prevent this in other parts of Sweden.

Almost 11,450 people have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, Tegnell told reporters at the Public Health Agency’s daily briefing at 2pm. A total of 915 people have been in intensive care since the outbreak started.

People born in other countries than Sweden are overrepresented in the statistics, according to new figures released by the Public Health Agency. Somalia and Iraq were highlighted by Tegnell as being significantly overrepresented, with a slightly smaller overrepresentation among people born in Syria. He said that overrepresentation in a few other immigrant groups, such as Finland and Yugoslavia, may be because a lot of people originally from those countries are in age groups that are more affected by the virus.

Stockholm has previously reported that some of its immigrant communities in the Swedish capital’s vulnerable suburbs are overrepresented in the statistics. Tegnell said that cramped living conditions may be a factor, but that work is under way to look into the reasons more in depth.

New figures from telecom giant Telia give an idea of how well people in Sweden heeded recommendations not to travel during the Easter holidays.

Travel from Stockholm to the island of Gotland fell 96 percent between April 8th and April 10th compared to the same period last year, according to Telia’s anonymised mobile phone data, reports the TT news agency. And travel to ski resort Malung-Sälen dropped by 92 percent.

Travel from Gothenburg to Gotland decreased by 94 percent, and from Gothenburg to Stockholm and from Malmö to Stockholm fell 85 percent. Travel from Malmö to Mörbylånga municipality on the Öland island fell 96 percent compared to last year.

April 13th:

A total of 919 people have died with the coronavirus in Sweden, according to the latest figures shared by the Public Health Agency. That’s an increase of 20 from yesterday,  but it’s important to note that the way regions and authorities report the figures mean that this is not necessarily the same number that have died in the past 24 hours, so this is not reflective of the Easter weekend.

There are currently 10,948 known cases of the virus in Sweden, an increase of 465 from yesterday.

There’s been a mixed response as to whether people have adhered to warnings not to travel during the Easter period in Sweden.

A week before Easter, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told people not to travel away at Easter. 

“We have not seen any major influx of tourists”, says the Jämtland Härjedalen regional Director of Health Maria Söderkvist to TT.

Johan Rosenqvist is director of health in the Kalmar region, where normally tourist-friendly Öland is included. He too feels that the pressure at the region’s hospitals has been under control. 

“Until Easter Eve, which is the latest information I have, it has been quiet in emergency. A smaller number than we had expected. Overall, it is a stable location, there have been no major changes. That people have listened to calls is valuable to the health care industry”, he says.

However in other places in Sweden, travel and tourism have increased during Easter, despite the appeal to stay at home. 

“We have seen an extra influx of people, and it worries me a bit”, says Simrishamn Municipal councillor Jeanette Ovesson.

“It’s hard to say if it has any impact. We will see possible consequences in a couple of weeks. But there has been no higher burden on health care these days”, says Ovesson

April 12th:

A total of 899 people have sadly died with the coronavirus in Sweden, according to the latest figures shared by the Public Health Agency. That’s an increase of 12 from yesterday, but it’s important to note that the way regions and authorities report the figures mean that this is not necessarily the same number that have died in the past 24 hours.

There are currently known 10,483 cases of the virus in Sweden, an increase of 332 from yesterday.

There is no press conference from the agency today, but these should resume tomorrow, on Easter Monday.

Over 100 coronavirus-related incidents have been reported to police in Sweden, according to a report from public broadcaster SVT. This includes people who have claimed to be infected with the coronavirus and have coughed or spat at police officers.

Police chiefs said that most incidents related to people who were trying to evade an arrest or other contact with police.

Gothenburg’s field hospital has taken in its first coronavirus patients.

By early evening on Saturday, the first eight patients were receiving intensive care there, with four more expected to arrive later in the day.

But the hospital is not in use because other intensive care wards have run out of capacity, the field hospital’s operations manager told Expressen. The most severely ill patients will not be cared for there.

“We have places indoors, but they are scattered around in different places and different hospitals within the Sahlgrenska University Hospital. [Using the field hospital is] much more simple and systematic,” said operations manager Henrik Sundeman.

The hospital is one of several that have been built around the country, including one south of Stockholm city centre in Älvsjö, which has not yet taken in any coronavirus patients but is ready to do so if needed.

Easter looks a bit different today, in Sweden as around the world. Everyone in Sweden has been urged to avoid travel and visits to relatives (especially those over 70), and the Royal Family have shared a video of their own virtual Easter celebrations.

Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel and their children Estelle and Oscar greeted the King and Queen, who as over-70s are self-isolating, as well as other members of the family who joined by video from elsewhere.

 

April 9th:

Two professors at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology are mailing 1,000 coronavirus test kits to Stockholmers over the Easter weekend. The anonymous serological tests are meant to help analyse how many people in Stockholm have developed antibodies, and may be immune. Read more here.

New articles today:

Sweden has confirmed a total of 9,141 cases of the coronavirus. The number of patients being treated in intensive care, currently 477 patients, is still relatively stable, said Swedish health officials on Thursday.

A total of 793 people have passed away with the coronavirus. There is a slight delay as to how the figures get reported, but apart from that Sweden’s death toll is estimated to be “extremely accurate” compared to many other countries, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at the Public Health Agency’s daily briefing. This is because all deaths in Sweden are reported to the country’s register of causes of death, and Sweden’s population registers make it comparatively easy for health authorities to track all deaths.

The Public Health Agency has started carrying out random testing of the population to find out how many people in society have had the coronavirus. An initial survey of 773 random samples of Stockholmers aged 2-86 showed that 2.5 percent of that group were infected. However, that only means that they carried the coronavirus right then and there, so more research is needed to know how widespread the outbreak is.

Tegnell said that municipalities would likely be carrying out spot checks of restaurants over the coming weekends to ensure that guidelines about social distancing were being followed, after reports of crowded outdoor restaurants. He said venues that do not follow the guidelines could be closed. “Restaurant owners have a clear responsibility, but guests also have individual responsibility,” he told the press conference.

Sweden last month introduced new restrictions for bars and restaurants. They included for example table service only, and requiring bars and restaurants to space out their tables to help guests keep a distance.

“We are getting so many signals that (the rules) are not being followed, and the normal course of events is then to introduce controls and… set an example, to put it like that,” said Tegnell.

Malmö, southern Sweden’s biggest city, remains four to five weeks behind Stockholm on the coronavirus curve, according to the city council’s strategist Per-Erik Ebbeståhl.

“We are expected to be in Stockholm’s current situation at around the end of May or beginning of June,” he told a press conference on Thursday.

With 381 confirmed cases by 11.30am on April 8th (compared to Stockholm’s 3,577), southern Skåne region is currently number 17 on the list of the number of infections per 100,000 people in Sweden.

But a concern is that the virus has spread to care homes for the elderly in southern Sweden as well, with two confirmed cases in Malmö’s care homes. Between 10 and 20 percent of care home staff in Malmö is currently absent, but they have received 1,400 applications from people who want to work in the sector.

“We have enough protective equipment at this stage,” Gisela Öst, head of the health and social care department at Malmö City Council, told TT.

Stockholm may have reached, or is about to reach, the start of its peak, but is expected to remain at the current level for several weeks. But state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told the TT newswire on Thursday morning that this all depends on several factors, such as people following the social distancing guidelines.

Asked whether Sweden risked ending up in the same situation as Italy or Spain, two of the worst affected countries in Europe, he said: “We should not get that kind of development, because the curve (in Stockholm) has been flat for a long time. But it is important to keep at it right now, and that everyone keeps fighting for another few weeks.”

Stockholm suburbs Rinkeby-Kista and Spånga-Tensta are overrepresented in the coronavirus statistics. There are several possible factors behind this, and the language divide is only one of them, an expert tells The Local’s contributor Anne Grietje Franssen. Read the full article here.

The assistant director of Norway’s Directorate of Health has said that he thinks Sweden will sooner or later be forced to move to a more restrictive strategy. As of Wednesday afternoon Norway had reported just 93 deaths from coronavirus while Sweden had reported 687. Read the full article here.

April 8th:

Swedish company Essitythe world’s largest producer of toilet paper and other hygienic products, is to deliver millions of surgical masks to the Swedish healthcare system, as part of a new deal with the Swedish government and National Board of Health and Welfare. The first million will be donated by Essity.

The company has restructured its production line in a couple of weeks to be able to produce the much-needed masks, and will be able to produce three million a month, and 30 million a month after the summer once a new machine is installed.

The new deal is made possible thanks to collaboration with RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden), a state-owned research body which is able to verify the safety standards of new products for use in healthcare.

A total of 687 people have died with the coronavirus in Sweden, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest update (presented at 2pm), and there have been 8,419 confirmed cases so far. A total of 678 people have so far been in intensive care, and around 469 patients are currently in intensive care. Sweden is currently seeing an average of around 45 deaths a day, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

Tegnell however told the press conference that there are signs that Sweden, or particularly Stockholm, may have reached “more of a plateau situation than before”. “But we are starting to see an increase in other parts of the country,” he said. He added that Stockholm is reaching a point where the basic reproduction number of the virus is 1.0, or in other words when one person infects on average only one other person.

However, infection in elderly care is a concern. In Stockholm, around 33 percent of all over-70s who have been infected with the coronavirus, and around 40 percent of all over-70s who have died, live in care homes for the elderly, according to the Public Health Agency. In the rest of Sweden the corresponding figure is only 5 percent and 4 percent.

A reporter from the Reuters news agency asked Tegnell at the press conference in Stockholm to respond to comments made by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday. Trump said that Sweden had adopted a “herd immunity” strategy (which health authorities have denied) and that “Sweden is suffering very gravely”.

“No, we don’t share his opinion,” said Tegnell. “Of course we’re suffering. Everybody in the world is suffering right now, in different ways. But Swedish healthcare, which I guess he alludes to, it’s very difficult to understand, is taking care of this in a very, very good manner.

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of stress for the personnel and it’s really a fight for them every day, but it’s working and the Swedish healthcare is delivering results just as good as they have ever done. The Swedish healthcare is one of the best in the world and it continues to be like that.”

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The department for thoracic surgery at Linköping University Hospital in Sweden tested all of its staff, around 50, for the coronavirus and found that around five to ten tested positive without obvious symptoms or with only very mild symptoms, such as a light headache or a slightly blocked nose.

A Public Health Agency survey is currently under way to investigate how many people in society may be carrying the coronavirus. But asked about the example from Linköping University Hospital, the agency’s analyst Karin Tegmark Wisell told Swedish radio: “This underlines that paying attention to symptoms is not enough, but you have to observe social distancing to as great an extent as possible.”

Public Health Agency state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell confirmed to Swedish radio’s morning show P1-morgon that “the spread (of infection) in society is happening without us seeing it at all. It’s been talked about that up to nine out of ten don’t have particularly visible symptoms.

“But we don’t know exactly because unfortunately no targeted studies have been possible. You would then have to go around randomly testing a fairly large group and see if they have antibodies. But that is in the pipeline, so perhaps we’ll know soon,” he said.

April 7th:

Sweden’s government will get extra powers to make fast decisions in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

A new bill which would allow the government to take measures – such as closing schools, shopping malls, or restaurants – without first getting parliamentary approval, now has enough support in parliament to be passed, following discussion with the main opposition parties. 

The law is set to apply from April 18th to June 30th, and will only apply to measures related to the coronavirus crisis.

“We are now experiencing a historically difficult situation and we need opportunities to make difficult decisions if necessary,” said Health Minister Lena Hallengren. “Even if parliament works fast, it can mean that we lose days. We are not prepared to take that risk.”

Hallengren added that the government does not currently have concrete plans for any measures it would take under the new law.

A total of 591 people have died with the coronavirus in Sweden. That’s an increase from 477 confirmed deaths on April 6th, but there is a delay in how the statistics are reported by regional health authorities, so the increase does not equal the number of deaths in the last 24 hours.

“We are averaging around 40 deaths per 24 hours,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters at the Public Health Agency’s daily briefing at 2pm.

Norway on Monday stated they believed they had the coronavirus outbreak “under control”. Eighty-three people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus in Norway. Asked at the press conference why Norway’s death toll is so much lower than Sweden’s, Tegnell responded:

“There are two reasons. Their infection has spread above all among much younger people than in Sweden. The other reason, for reasons we don’t really know, is that the infection has spread much less in elderly care homes in Norway than in Sweden.”

Tegnell said yesterday that the Public Health Agency was looking into why the coronavirus has spread to more elderly care homes in Sweden than in the other Nordic countries.

The coronavirus outbreak appears to be hitting residents in two of Stockholm’s most vulnerable suburbs the hardest, with Rinkeby-Kista and Spånga-Tensta overrepresented according to health authorities.

Read the full article here and if you live in Stockholm, find your area in the table below.

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Finland is tightening its border with Sweden and Norway to curb the spread of the coronavirus, allowing only essential commuter traffic, with almost all passengers arriving in Finland ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days, reports YLE. Finnish healthcare workers who live in Finland and work in Sweden are not affected by the new measures, and freight traffic between the countries will also continue to operate as normal.

The new rules apply until May 13th. Read more about them here (in English).

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April 6th:

Sweden’s Central Bank is extending its 500 billion kronor loans for companies struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic to sole proprietors (enskild firma). Read more (in English) here.

In total, 303 people have been confirmed dead with the new coronavirus in Stockholm, an increase of 52 people, according to regional hospital director Björn Eriksson. A total of 179 patients are in intensive care in the region and 729 patients are being treated in hospital.

An army field hospital set up at the Älvsjö conference centre in southern Stockholm is ready to be used, but has yet to welcome the first patients. It was originally expected to open to patients on Monday, but it is not yet needed. On Monday more than 50 intensive care beds and several hundred regular hospital beds in the Swedish capital were still unoccupied, reported Swedish news agency TT.

“Right now we’re one step ahead. That’s because of our amazing colleagues who have come into work, worked extra shifts and really stepped up,” the news agency quoted Eriksson as saying.

An infant is in intensive care at Uppsala University Hospital and has tested positive for the new coronavirus, report several Swedish media. The baby, who was born prematurely earlier this year according to the Aftonbladet tabloid, was admitted to hospital on Sunday with breathing difficulties.

“It is correct that we have a very small child in a ventilator. The child is doing fairly well under the circumstances,” Rainer Dörenberg, a departmental head at intensive pediatric care, told Aftonbladet.

It is unclear how the child was infected. Family members have been tested.

According to the Public Health Agency’s statistics, 43 people aged 0-9 have tested positive for the coronavirus to date, out of 7,206 confirmed cases in Sweden in total.

The Local has contacted Uppsala University Hospital for comment.

A total of 7,206 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Sweden, up from 6,830 the day before; 477 people have died after testing positive (up from 401); and 590 patients have been in intensive care since the start of the outbreak, according to the Public Health Agency’s daily briefing.

There is a delay in how the figures are reported, especially during and just after the weekend, and the figures for intensive care includes both current patients and people who may have passed away or recovered.

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell showed graphs that suggest that cases of Sweden’s seasonal influenza and vomiting bug dropped sharply in recent weeks, which he said indicates that measures such as urging social distancing and good hand hygiene would likely have an effect on the coronavirus as well. “It would be strange if it didn’t,” he told reporters at the 2pm press conference.

This graph by the Public Health Agency shows the number of reported cases of the calicivirus (vomiting bug) during the 2019-2020 season (green columns, until and including week 13, starting March 23rd) and previous years. The dotted line shows the average of the last three seasons, 2016-2019:

Tegnell said that the “biggest concern” right now is that so many care homes for the elderly have reported cases of infection, a problem he said Norway and Denmark were not seeing to the same extent. He said the Public Health Agency is looking at whether the problem can be mitigated by testing more members of staff.

Since March 1st, at least 49,500 people in Sweden have been handed their notice, according to the Swedish Employment Agency’s new figures. The figures do not necessarily mean that 49,500 people will become unemployed – some may find a new job, and some companies may be able to use various crisis packages by the government to keep their staff – but they still show the economic impact of the coronavirus.

The hotel and restaurant sector is the hardest hit, with more than 14,000 people affected. And more than half of people given notice work for a company based in Stockholm. The figures do not paint the whole picture, as notices affecting fewer than five people do not have to be reported to the Employment Agency.

Between March 30th and April 5th, a total 25,350 people registered with the Employment Agency. That’s an increase of 16,761 people compared to the same week last year, and more than during the financial crisis of 2008.

Swedish domestic airline BRA has halted all flights from April 6th until further notice. The airline has, like many other airlines in Sweden and the world, been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. BRA said it was aiming to be back up and running after the summer. In the meantime, it has applied to undergo so-called debt reconstruction, a process similar to going into administration, which helps heavily indebted companies avoid bankruptcy by either paying off or getting permission in certain circumstances not to pay their debts.

BRA said all existing bookings would be available again after the summer, and told customers to keep hold of their booking code in order to claim their flight when the company resumes operations.

A new army field hospital set up at the Älvsjö conference centre in Stockholm is expected to open its doors to patients today.

A total of 168 patients are being treated in intensive care at the region’s hospitals. However, Stockholm has managed to more than triple its intensive care capacity in recent days, and on Sunday morning around 70 beds were unoccupied in intensive care, said healthcare director Björn Eriksson. Read the latest about the situation in the Swedish capital here.

April 5th:

“Did I think about other people? Or did I put myself first? We will have to live with the choices we make today, for a long time to come. They will impact many,” said Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf as he urged people not to travel during Easter, in a televised speech. Read the full speech in English here.

A total of 6,830 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Sweden, with 401 deaths and a total of 541 patients in intensive care since the start of the outbreak.

All commercial flights between Sweden and the UK will be suspended from the afternoon of Thursday 9th April until further notice, according to The British Embassy in Sweden. Read the full report in this article.

Swedish news agency TT has claimed revised figures show that deaths related to the coronavirus in Sweden are in fact higher than reported. Read the full report in this article.

Having told their populations that wearing masks was all but useless against the coronavirus, several Western countries have performed dramatic U-turns in the last few days. So what is the latest advice on wearing face masks? Read more here (paywall free).

April 4th:

A total of 6,443 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Sweden, with 373 deaths and a total of 520 patients in intensive care since the start of the outbreak. 

The Swedish government wants to be able to quickly make decisions on how to tackle the coronavirus, without first obtaining Parliament’s approval, according to Swedish paper Expressen.

“This would be unique for Sweden”, says Mark Klamberg, professor of international law at Stockholm University. “It can be about restricting public groups, closing down shopping centres or imposing restrictions on transport – measures that need to be taken quickly to limit the spread of infection in society.” Read the full report in this article.

Sweden strongly rejects the idea that life is carrying on uninterrupted, as it has been accused by some, both internationally and domestically, of risking the lives of its citizens by not taking more stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Read the full report here. 

April 3rd:

The Swedish foreign ministry has extended its advice against non-essential travel to anywhere in the world until June 15th. This is because of the fast spread of the coronavirus and changing decisions that can disrupt international travel plans, such as border closures or flight cancellations.

A special crisis deal for intensive care staff in Stockholm has been activated to help the region’s healthcare sector cope with the increase in coronavirus patients. This means that intensive care staff’s standard working week will be extended to 48 hours, rather than 40, with staff paid 220 percent of their usual salary per hour.

A total of 6,078 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Sweden, with 333 deaths and a total of 469 patients in intensive care since the start of the outbreak. The figure for intensive care includes both current patients and people who may have passed away or been discharged, and that particular curve is still relatively stable, said deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten at the Public Health Agency‘s daily briefing at 2pm. However, the other two curves are rising, with elderly people worst affected.

Johanna Sandwall, head of crisis management at the National Board of Health and Welfare, told the same press conference that nationally, around a third of the country’s intensive care beds are still available.

“I have been involved in many economic crises, including three major ones in Sweden,” said Stefan Ingves, the head of Sweden’s Central Bank, the Riksbank, in a speech today. “But I have never previously experienced such a rapid course of events and so many decisions being taken in such a short space of time.”

“Many in society are struggling now, not least health workers in the front line. On a personal level, many are certainly struggling with anxiety, not just over the spread of the virus and the health of their loved ones, but also over unemployment and the risk of losing their life’s work when parts of the economy close down. People suffer in economic crises.”

He outlined seven measures the Riksbank has undertaken to mitigate the economic impact of the virus: A programme of corporate lending via banks (up to 500 billion kronor), making it possible for more banks and credit institutions to borrow money from the Riksbank, easing the collateral requirements when borrowing from the Riksbank, reducing the lending rate overnight for banks, lending unlimited amounts of SEK against collateral at 0.20 percent interest, lending up to $60 billion, and purchasing government, municipal, mortgage and corporate bonds and commercial paper to up 300 billion kronor. Read his full speech here.

Swedish clothing giant H&M has reported a strong start to the year, but predicts tough times ahead as the coronavirus crisis continues to deepen. Read the full report in this article.

Stockholm’s public transport will return to full capacity on Monday, in an effort to avoid crowding on buses and other vehicles which could lead to the spread of infection.

Public transport operator SL has also advised city-dwellers: “Stay home. Only travel if you really have to. If you can, avoid times when many other people are travelling.”

This is after traffic outside rush hour was reduced on buses and local trams (although the subway and commuter train continue to run according to the winter timetable), which led to crowding, especially on bus routes.

The Public Health Agency introduced stricter guidelines around social distancing this week which require public transport operators to ensure it’s possible for commuters to keep a distance from each other. 

SL has reminded people who are aged over 70, belong to a high-risk group, or have any cold- or flu-like symptoms that they should stay at home and avoid all use of public transport under Public Health Agency guidelines.

Other passengers are requested to avoid public transport if at all possible, to try to choose less busy times if it’s not possible, and to keep their distance from others while on public transport or at stations.

Total number of confirmed cases: 6,078

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

April 2nd:

Stockholm has asked the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions for permission to activate a so-called ‘crisis situation deal’ for healthcare staff working in intensive care in the region.

This means in practice that staff can be told to work up to 48 hours a week, rather than 40 hours which is the standard working week in Sweden, but at a higher salary. Employees would get paid 220 percent of their regular salary an hour, according to Swedish news agency TT.

More than 10,600 people have been tested for the new coronavirus in Stockholm alone. Of those, 2,439 people have been confirmed to be carrying the virus, an increase of 215 people compared to April 1st, according to new figures released by Stockholm health authorities on Thursday evening.

In Stockholm, 179 people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, 143 confirmed coronavirus patients are being treated in intensive care and another 572 patients are being treated in hospital.

Region Stockholm has increased its intensive care capacity by 163 percent in recent days, healthcare director Björn Eriksson told a press conference at 7pm. He said that there were still beds available in intensive care in the region, but that more would need to be done to keep being one step ahead.

An army field hospital being set up at the Älvsjö conference centre, Älvsjömässan, is set to open its doors to patients, probably as early as the weekend, said Eriksson. It will be able to admit 140 patients during the initial stage, which can later be increased to 600 patients. “We are looking into the possibilities of even further increases,” said Eriksson.


Stockholm’s healthcare director Björn Eriksson at a press conference on Thursday evening. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

“We have reached a new level,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters as he presented updated figures of the spread of coronavirus at the Public Health Agency’s daily press briefing at 2pm.

He said Sweden’s confirmed cases were now increasing at around 400-500 a day, with the increase of 519 cases among the biggest yet in 24 hours. A total of 282 patients have died after testing positive for the coronavirus.

“We are worried about elderly people. The curve is starting to rise. Almost half of all cases who are admitted to hospital are ‘older elderly’,” said Tegnell, mentioning reports that Stockholm and other parts of Sweden are seeing how the infection is spreading in care homes for elderly.

The Public Health Agency updates its statistics here every day.

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Several banks are raising the limit for contactless payments in an effort to limit physical contact.

Both SEB and Nordea are raising the limit to 400 kronor, although the measure will only come into effect from April 17th.

Requirements to amortise household mortgage loans are being temporarily suspended, in order to support individuals whose finances have been negatively affected by the coronavirus.

Amortisation is paying off part of the loan itself, and not just the interest, which was previously possible with interest-only mortgages. But under rules first introduced in 2016, people with a mortgage for 50 percent or more of their total property value must amortise at least one percent of the loan value each year. That rises to two percent for people whose loan accounts for 70 percent or more of the total value.

This has now been temporarily suspended, so that property owners can instead only pay off the interest on their mortgages during the coronavirus crisis. To take advantage of the suspension of this requirement, mortgage holders should contact their bank.

The median household in Sweden has a monthly amortization cost of around 3,200 kronor, according to Finansinspektion, the country’s financial supervisory authority. Find English-language information from the authority here.

Many Swedish care homes have confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus, according to a survey from Swedish radio.

On March 31st the government issued a national ban on visits to care homes, following previous strong recommendations and bans at local or regional levels.

But a study from Sveriges Radio showed that 90 of the country’s 290 municipalities have reported known or suspected cases of the virus in care homes. Of those, 43 had reported confirmed cases, while a further 51 had suspected cases.

Almedalen, Sweden’s annual political festival, has been cancelled.

The event usually sees around 40,000 people travel to the island of Gotland for a week of seminars, speeches and other events. This year, the island has warned people from the mainland against visiting in general during the coronavirus outbreak, due to fears that an influx of tourists would increase the spread of the virus and put strain on the local healthcare services.

Read more about the festival here.

The coronavirus crisis will last for months, not weeks, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told Swedish TV, without giving any exact estimates of dates or times.

“We have this ahead of us. It will take a longer time than we want it to take,” he said. Asked how long he thought it could take, Löfven said: “No-one can say that, not even the experts.”

He also told SVT that the question of accountability should wait until the crisis is over.

Löfven highlighted that the government is always in charge, but wouldn’t say who would be responsible for the Swedish approach to fighting the virus – which has been criticised by some Swedish and international experts as an outlier although it also has many supporters – if this strategy turned out to be unsuccessful.

“With all respect, I think that’s a very speculative question in this situation,” he said.

Total number of confirmed cases: 5,466

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

April 1st:

A new field hospital in a Stockholm conference centre is now ready to take in patients, regional healthcare director Björn Eriksson said at a press conference.

“The storm has not abated, we’re seeing a steady rise [in cases],” he said, using the same metaphor he has previously used to talk about the large numbers of coronavirus cases in Stockholm, and subsequent pressure on the region’s healthcare.

But he said that efforts to quickly increase healthcare capacity had paid off, adding: “Every day we are increasing the capacity for intensive care and general care. At the moment, we are a step ahead and we are working to hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

“Normally we have around 100 intensive care places, but we have doubled the number of places. At the moment, around 150 people are in intensive care,” explained Eriksson. 

The new field hospital is ready to take in patients, and will only care for coronavirus patients. Eriksson said the hope was not to need to use this hospital at all, but that it was ready to be used as soon as needed.

In the last 24 hours, a total of 45 coronavirus patients died in Stockholm.

Sweden’s state finances are relatively solid thanks to a long period of economic boom. But the coronavirus outbreak is expected to hit the country’s economy hard. According to a new report by Sweden’s National Institute of Economic Research (NIER), “a particularly deep economic downturn looms”.

Sweden has outlined a series of binding recommendations for organisations and individuals to help protect vulnerable groups from the coronavirus. The guidelines are not optional, in the sense that Sweden’s law on the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases obligates the public to help halt the spread of infection, but according to the same law there are no penalties for those who break the recommendations, explained the Public Health Agency’s director-general Johan Carlson at a press conference.


An English-language information screen asks Stockholmers to follow the latest advice. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

These measures include:

Shops and shopping centres should limit the number of customers in the shop at the same time, and outline alternative solutions for queues or the distance between customers. Sport associations should if possible hold training sessions outside, postpone matches, competitions, and limit the audience numbers.

Employers should make sure that staff and visitors keep their distance, and let employees work from home in order to avoid unnecessary travel if possible. Public transport companies should limit the number of passengers, and adapt their schedules to avoid for example crowded buses.

The dictate also outlines the obligations placed on individual people. These include recommendations to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds; keep your distance in public places, for exampel shops, museums, libraries, waiting rooms and public transport; refrain from attending events such as parties, funerals and weddings; avoid rush-hour commuters and avoid unnecessary travels.

People who are over 70 or belong to other risk groups should limit their social contact with other people, avoid public transport and avoid shopping in pharmacies, supermarkets or crowded places.

Read more about the new guidelines in English here.

A total of 239 people have died after testing positive for the new coronavirus in Sweden, with 4,974 confirmed cases as of the Public Health Agency’s daily press briefing at 2pm on Wednesday.

“If you look at the last month in Sweden our curve is relatively flat, but there’s a fairly sharp rise at the moment,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell after the number of confirmed cases grew by around 500 in one day.

The increase in fatalities, up from 180 confirmed fatalities on Tuesday, is not all linked to the past 24 hours, because there is a slight delay in reporting, but he urged everyone to follow the guidelines and help protect risk groups.

The Public Health Agency updates its statistics at 2pm every day. You can look at them here (Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox etc) or here (Internet Explorer).

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Ski resort owner Skistar said it would close all its centres in Sweden on Monday after speaking with local health authorities in affected regions and acting on the advice of the Public Health Agency.

Thousands of people from across Sweden normally flock to the mountain ski resorts over the Easter break, but Sweden’s Public Health Agency has urged people not to travel for non-essential reasons. This is so that visitors will not put extra pressure on already strained healthcare in Sweden’s rural regions.

The decision to close applies to Skistar’s slopes in Sälen, Vemdalen and Åre, and they will remain closed for the duration of the winter season, which usually lasts for another two to four weeks.

Branäsgruppen, which owns ski resorts at Branäs in Värmland and Kungsberget in Gästrikland, will close its centres on Sunday.

Total number of confirmed cases: 4,947

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 31st:

More coronavirus tests are set to be carried out in Sweden, the government announced in a press conference. 

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that Sweden was carrying out testing at a similar level to other “comparable countries”, and that more than 36,000 people had been tested for the virus in Sweden as of a few days ago. The Public Health Agency said in its own press conference today that around 10,000-12,000 people are currently being tested each week in Sweden.

The government has now asked the agency to quickly draw up a national strategy to increase testing.

The main goal of increasing tests is to find out if people in essential jobs, such as healthcare and the emergency services, have the virus or have had it and may now be immune. 

Read more about the changes, and the other updates from the press conference, in the article below:

180 people have now died after testing positive for the coronavirus, an increase of 34 from yesterday.

These figures were shared at the daily Public Health Agency press conference (directly after the announcements from the government). In total, there are now 4,435 confirmed cases of the virus in Sweden.

And 358 people have been cared for in Swedish intensive care since the start of the outbreak. That’s up from 306 the day before, but this figure includes those who have since passed away, or recovered and been discharged.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has announced further restrictions in Sweden, and underlined once again the individual responsibility of people in Sweden to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The announcements came at a press conference together with Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin and Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren. 

“Every Swede has a responsibility to protect themselves with the aim of protecting others,” said Löfven, urging everyone in the country to cancel planned Easter travel, in line with Public Health Agency recommendations to avoid non-essential travel.

“It is highly likely that the situation will get worse before it gets better,” said Löfven. 

Deputy Prime Minister Lövin thanked everyone who had chosen to stay home, cancel trips and other activities, and helped others. 

The new restrictions included a ban at the national level on visits to elderly care homes. This followed earlier recommendations from the Public Health Agency to avoid all non-essential visits to the elderly, and some regions have introduced their own bans, but Lövin said there was a need for “clarity and a uniformity”.

Many healthcare workers are concerned about reduced requirements for protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus patients.

The Public Health Agency has transferred the decision of which protective equipment to use to individual regions, based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The agency’s new guidelines are more general, with no mentions of specific equipment, compared to earlier versions where arm protection was required for example. Regions then have the authority to make their own individual requirements with more detail.

Speaking at Monday’s press confreence, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell explained the decision saying: “When you learn more about a disease, you know more about what is needed. More protection is not always better protection. It can be difficult to work with too much protection.”

He stated that the change in guidelines was not due to any lack in materials, but based on the World Health Organisation’s own updated recommendations.

But a Facebook group for healthcare professionals who are worried about the looser guidelines has already reached 30,000 members in just a few days. 

“We’re fighting for masks, visors and gloves. It’s basic protective equipment,” ambulance nurse Ann-Jasmin Wikström, one of the group’s organisers said to the TT newswire.

This comes after several of Sweden’s municipalities have reported an “acute” lack of equipment such as masks, gloves and visors, as SVT reports.

Total number of confirmed cases: 4,435

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 30th:

Sweden has temporarily relaxed the rules on who is eligible for unemployment insurance, as part of a new package introduced to help those whose jobs are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
The rules around who is eligible for the insurance have been relaxed, while both the minimum and maximum amounts to be paid out have been raised as part of a raft of new measures.

Read more about the changes in this article

Do you need more information about the coronavirus? The Local’s journalists are working round the clock to bring you updates here in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, and we’ve also gathered some other useful websites and phone numbers for you if you need medical advice, have general questions, or need another kind of help. They’re listed here:

A total of 4,028 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Sweden, and 146 coronavirus patients have died.

That’s a sharp increase from the figure of 110 reported on Sunday, but state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that this could be because the weekend tends to see slower increases, with a comparatively sharp rise on the Monday. 

These new figures came from the Public Health Agency at the daily press conference, where we also learned that 306 people have thus far been treated for the coronavirus in intensive care. This figure includes those who have since passed away, or recovered and been discharged.

Among those who have died, the majority were aged over 80 (97 people), while one person was in the 20-29 age group, eight were aged 50-59, six aged 60-69, and 34 were aged 70-79.

Tegnell reiterated that the current focus in Sweden’s strategy is to reduce the spread of infection (through measures such as asking everyone to stay at home if they feel at all sick, work from home if possible, and avoid non-essential travel) and to protect people in risk groups such as the over-70s.

People in Sweden were asked again to avoid travelling at Easter, in order to avoid putting too great a burden on the healthcare sector.


State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

Sweden’s king has said in an interview with Dagens Nyheter that people in Sweden, especially those in risk groups, should follow advice from authorities.

King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife, Queen Silvia, are both in their 70s and therefore belong to a risk group. They are self-isolating in Sörmland, carrying out royal duties from a distance and not having contact with their grandchildren beyond video calls.

“I hope we can get out a sobering message that everyone listens to. Not to listen to me, but to the experts and the authorities. Today in the media noise that exists, with social media too, there’s a lot of information. It’s those who have gathered the information and have an overview who can make the best judgment,” he told the Swedish daily.

He also reminded people in his age group to follow authorities’ advice and stay home, and to try to make the best of it if possible. For example, he said he was reading books and working on DIY projects, and to those isolated in more confined spaces, urged: “Use the phone more than usual. Keep in touch with each other.”

Stockholmers were once again urged to stay at home over Easter in a regional press conference on Monday morning.

“Healthcare staff in Stockholm are going to work to save our lives. What we can do is stay at home this Easter. There will be other Easters,” the region’s financial commissioner said. 

Stockholm healthcare director Björn Eriksson also spoke about how the region has been preparing for the increased pressure on healthcare, including by doubling intensive care capacity in just ten days. Read more on that in the article below:

Sweden could follow other countries in using mobile phone data to track the spread of the coronavirus. The method was used in China and Singapore first, and the USA and several European countries have begun to use anonymised phone data in the fight against the virus.

Sweden’s Digitalisation Minister Anders Ygeman told Swedish radio that such geodata could be an “important tool to limit the spread of the virus. 

The Public Health Agency has already commissioned the Civil Contingencies Agency to develop a website where the public can register their symptoms, in an effort to gather more information about how the coronavirus has spread across the country.

Another example could be to track how many people leave the Stockholm area over Easter, for example. Health authorities in popular holiday hotspots have expressed worry that an influx of visitors from the epicentre of the virus in Sweden could put regional healthcare systems under stress.

Thousands of people have applied to help out in the Stockholm region’s healthcare system, where around half of Sweden’s confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths have so far been located. Around 6,500 people including doctors, nurses and students have applied, which the region’s healthcare director described as a “fantastic response”: 

The region has now paused its recruitment of extra help, but the healthcare director said they expected to need further help soon. The website to bookmark if you’re interested is here.

A 26-year-old woman is reportedly the youngest coronavirus patient to have died in Sweden, according to Dagens Nyheter which cites several sources.

Dagens Nyheter reports that the woman had no underlying illness but that there was a known risk factor. The report has not however been confirmed by the hospital or region, which have tended not to make public information about individual patients beyond whether they were over or under 70 years old, due to patient confidentiality. 

That means that the youngest officially confirmed coronavirus patient to have died in Sweden is a 30-year-old man in Jönköping, who had a known risk factor.

Total number of confirmed cases: 4,028

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 29th:

A total of 110 people have died in Sweden (as of March 29th, 2pm) after contracting coronavirus, the Public Health Agency has confirmed. The agency has published a new website which compiles all the statistics in graphs, including the regions affected and the age and sex of patients.

Public Health Agency state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told Swedish news agency TT that the number of elderly patients had stabilised in the past couple of days, and the number of patients in intensive care had decreased (255 in total since the start of the outbreak). He said patients were now being discharged from intensive care after recovering.

“What everyone is doing around the country must have had an effect. Because things are looking very different right now to many of those countries that have been very hard hit,” he said.

“In the last three, four days we have had roughly the same number of cases every day. It is a positive development.”

The majority of patients who have died after testing positive for the coronavirus were aged 70-90 (with most of them aged 80-90), a group Swedish health authorities have urged people to help protect from infection.

But a man in his 30s died in the Jönköping region, health officials confirmed on Sunday.

“The patient had a known risk factor which made the treatment of this illness more difficult,” healthcare director Mats Bojestig told TT, but did not elaborate.

March 28th:

A total of 102 people have died in Sweden after contracting coronavirus, the Public Health Agency confirmed, which is an increase of ten in 24 hours. More than half of the deaths so far, a total of 63, and just over half of all confirmed cases, are in the Stockholm region. 

Total number of confirmed cases: 3,447

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 27th:

Popular holiday spots have urged visitors to stay away. The Public Health Agency has asked members of the public to avoid non-essential travel within Sweden, but some regions are worried ahead of the Easter weekend.

In one Facebook video from Gotland, healthcare workers stood outside a field hospital with signs reading: “We go to work for you. Please stay at home for us. Even if home is on the mainland”. The video asked “summer Gotlanders” not to travel there, saying that the region’s healthcare was designed to take care of numbers based on permanent residents.

“Offering an extra bed, an extra respirator, or an extra appointment at the doctors’ for those who aren’t registered here will be very hard,” the video states.

 

Anders Tegnell, the Public Health Agency’s state epidemiologist, answered some questions at today’s press conference and spoke a bit more about what we should expect over the next few weeks.

“Cases will definitely continue to rise, it’s more a matter of at what pace,” he said. “Things we do now have an effect on the number of cases in about a week, on the number of intensive care patients in two weeks and on mortality in about three weeks.”

He reiterated Public Health Agency advice not to visit members of vulnerable groups, including over-70s, and said that no-one aged under 50 had yet died after testing positive for the coronavirus in Sweden.

He also said that the development in Sweden so far has been unlike the fast pace seen in countries such as Italy.

“If you look at the Swedish curve during the last two weeks, we have had a slow, gradual rise, not like in Italy or Spain where it went very quickly during the first weeks,” said Tegnell.

The epidemiologist also stressed the importance of following current recommendations, including working from home where possible.

A total of 3,046 cases have been confirmed in Sweden as of 2pm, although the actual number is likely higher. Ninety-two people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, and there are currently 209 people in intensive care around the country.

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Sweden is banning gatherings of more than 50 people, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told a press conference at 1.30pm on Friday. The ban comes into effect on Sunday and anyone who organises an event of more than 50 people can be fined or jailed for up to six months, said Interior Minister Mikael Damberg.

Sweden had previously banned events of more than 500 people. Both that decision and the new restriction were made by the government at the request of the Public Health Agency.

There are no bans on travel in place, and Löfven said there were no discussions under way about putting areas such as Stockholm under lockdown, but he strongly urged people not to travel during the Easter break.

“We all, as individuals, have to take responsibility. We can’t legislate and ban everything. It is also a question of common-sense manners,” he said, but warned that additional restrictions may come.

Read more in the article below:

More than 5,000 people have responded to a call for volunteers in Stockholm’s healthcare sector.

According to Dagens Nyheter which first reported the story, over 3,000 of the applications came in after Wednesday, when the regional healthcare director told a press conference “we need all the help we can get”. Anyone who wants to help can sign up here, and priority is being given to those with experience working in healthcare and especially with intensive care.

Keen to help out in another way? Read the article below:

Rules around sickness pay have been changed again. The requirement for a doctor’s note after the 14th day of sickness has been removed by the Social Insurance Agency.

Changes have already been made to remove the first unpaid day of sick leave (the karensdag) and for the state, not the employer, to pay for the first 14 days. The idea is that this latest change will help relieve pressure on the healthcare system.

Sweden now plans to try to evacuate Swedish citizens who are stranded abroad, after saying last weekend it had no plan to do so.

Foreign Minister Ann Linde said that Sweden was trying to ensure that Swedish citizens who were stuck overseas due to cancelled flights and travel restrictions could find a way home. 

“We are now planning to see how we can help people get home, above all those in Peru, but there are also other countries where the situation is so severe that the Foreign Ministry must get actively involved,” she said in parliament. The ministry is receiving around 1,500 calls each day about travellers overseas, she said.

Total number of confirmed cases: 3,046

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 26th:

The Social Democrat-Green government, and the Centre and Liberal parties, have presented a series of new measures intended to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on small businesses and entrepreneurs. The proposed measures include:

  • A central government loan guarantee issued to banks, who will provide loans of up to in general 75 million kronor to small and medium-sized companies. You apply for the loan via your bank.
  • Reducing employers’ social security contributions between March 1st and June 30th, so that only the old age pension contribution is paid, as well as individual contributions for sole traders.
  • A temporary discount on rental costs for companies in sectors hit hard by the coronavirus – “in sectors such as durable consumer goods, hotels, restaurants and certain other activities”.
  • Temporarily changing the rules for tax allocation reserves so that sole traders affected by the outbreak can get tax cuts.
  • Letting sole traders defer their spring VAT payments.

You can read more about the proposal here.

No extraordinary coronavirus legislation is being planned specifically for work permit holders in danger of losing their job or earning less in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, a spokesperson for the justice ministry has told The Local. The Migration Agency has published a list of frequently asked questions here.

There are signs that Sweden is reaching the expected phase where the curve of coronavirus patients is starting to move sharply upwards, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told the Public Health Agency’s daily briefing at 2pm, as he confirmed 66 people had died after testing positive for the coronavirus, with a nationwide total of 2,806 confirmed cases so far. In Stockholm, the worst-hit region, there were 1,216 confirmed cases and 42 deaths, with over-70s making up an increasingly larger part of the overall statistics.

A total of 178 patients have been treated or are being treated in intensive care across Sweden since the start of the outbreak. The figure includes both patients who have died or recovered and been discharged.

Tegnell stressed that the figures he presented were just a snapshot of a moment in time, and that they could change even within the course of the press conference, as Sweden’s 21 health regions report their figures at different times of the day. And the number of cases is expected to increase, he said.

In general, patients who pass away were infected four weeks ago, he said, with those in intensive care infected two weeks ago, so health authorities are able to predict the future strain on healthcare resources. “It is going to be really tough for healthcare services to handle this, even if we manage to flatten the curve,” he said.

“Our development is still relatively calm compared to other countries at the same stage,” he said, emphasising that it was “important to understand that we cannot stop” any of the measures being advised: staying at home if you are ill, work from home if you can and protect our elderly and other risk groups.

The Public Health Agency is now launching a major information campaign targeted at the over-70 group, including ads in newspapers, ads on Facebook in five languages, and leaflets in 16 different languages.

Tegnell said, in response to a question from a journalist at the press conference, that Stockholm may have reached the so-called day zero, the day when the day mapping the number of seriously people starts to rapidly incline. But he added that it was still slightly to early to confirm that for sure.

He said there were no imminent plans to put Stockholm under lockdown.

The Red Cross has said it will open a telephone line for those who are worried about the coronavirus, which is staffed by workers and volunteers who are trained in crisis support and psychological health.

The aim isn’t to give medical advice (if that’s what you need, Sweden’s telephone number for healthcare advice is 1177, or 112 for emergencies), but for people to receive support and verified information. The line will be open between 12-4pm on weekdays to begin with.

It’s also possible to ring 113 13, Sweden’s national information number, if you want general, non-medical information about the virus.

Total number of confirmed cases: 2,806

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

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March 25th:

What’s missing from Sweden’s coronavirus strategy? Clearer communications, several experts have told The Local.

We understand that a lot of you may be wondering about the stark difference between the message that the situation was “relatively stable” at the 2pm Public Health Agency conference, and the latest news from Stockholm that deaths have almost doubled in the past 24 hours.

One reason is that the Public Health Agency conferences typically refer to the previous day’s figures, collected from all regions, and that this is a fast-developing situation.

The agency has regularly been stating that unfortunately we should expect the numbers of cases and deaths to rise, but that they hope the measures currently in place will help to keep the rise in cases manageable.

But the experts we spoke to said they were concerned that the current advice may not be clear enough, and that not enough is being done to ensure the advice reaches the public.

Stockholm has said it needs help in the form of protective equipment and extra staff in order to manage the crisis. The capital is the hardest-hit part of Sweden in terms of cases and fatalities.

“The storm is here,” said regional healthcare director Björn Eriksson at a press conference on Wednesday evening. “We don’t know how strong it’s going to be, but we’re in it now.”

18 people have died in the past 24 hours in Stockholm alone, Eriksson said; 37 in total. This means Stockholm has reached or is very close to reaching ‘Day Zero’ which we mentioned earlier, the day when the curve starts climbing sharply upwards. 

The region has seen more and more people in the vulnerable over-70 age group infected by the virus.

Eriksson thanked those working in the healthcare sector for their “outstanding efforts”, and called on anyone with professional healthcare experience to assist. Those who have recently retired will be able to start to return to work over the next weeks. “We will take all the help we can get,” he said.

He also warned of a shortage of protective equipment in the region, as well as at a national and international level.

We have just revamped The Local’s noticeboard to help our self-employed readers and readers with small businesses. We know that the financial impact of this crisis is going to hit many people hard. Our own advertising sales are already plummeting, and we are grateful to everyone who is supporting us as paying members. We want to give something back, and hope we can all help each other weather the storm.

Click here to read more about what we at The Local can do to help your business.

Forty-two people have died after testing positive for the new coronavirus since the start of the outbreak in Sweden. Fifty-seven percent of them were men and their average age 82, according to new figures from the Swedish Public Health Agency released at the agency’s daily press briefing at 2pm.

A total of 2,510 people have been diagnosed with the virus so far. The majority are still aged around 40-70, which is a reflection of the fact that many of Sweden’s cases caught the virus on ski trips to Italy, but there has been a slight increase in the number of people aged over 70. However the latter is still relatively small.

Most of the pressure on intensive care wards in Sweden is in Stockholm, said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. The virus is spreading in other cities and regions, but at a comparatively slow pace. “The situation is still fairly stable,” he said. However, the Public Health Agency believes that Sweden has not yet hit the so-called Day Zero, the day when the curve starts climbing sharply upwards, so the worst may still be ahead.

Around 24,000 people have been tested for the virus in Sweden so far.

A total of 158 patients have been or are being treated in intensive care in Sweden for the coronavirus, according to Sweden’s Intensive Care Register. That figure includes people who are no longer in intensive care, either because they have passed away or because they have recovered and been discharged.

Sweden’s official policy has so far been to focus mainly on voluntary measures (apart from banning events of over 500 people and only allowing table service in restaurants and bars), with the official advice being that people in risk groups should stay at home and other people should stay at home if they have symptoms. Asked by a journalist at Wednesday’s press conference if Sweden was worried about asymptomatic people spreading the virus, Tegnell responded that that group was relatively small.

“We are not working on getting rid of the infection; that is not going to work, this disease is here to stay. What we are working on is trying to bring the infection in society down as much as possible, with reasonable measures, to flatten the curve and create a situation for healthcare services to continue to function,” said Tegnell.

Home break-ins have dropped by more than half in Stockholm since the coronavirus epidemic hit Sweden, police have told Sweden’s public radio broadcaster. But there’s a slight increase in attempted fraud, as scammers try to take advantage of elderly people self-isolating at home, by for example pretending to offer to do their food shopping for them, but instead taking their money. Read more in English here.

Stockholm City Council has presented a crisis package for small businesses in the Swedish capital. The measures include letting businesses defer payment of rent if they’re renting premises owned by the council’s property firms, and making it possible for foodtrucks not to have to pay a fee for land lease.

Swedish news agency TT reports that Stockholm restaurants will also be able to cut down on security guards, which is often a major cost for individual restaurants, and the city is making it easier to process planning permits in order to help restaurants open their outdoor serving areas faster.

Small businesses make up around 30 percent of Stockholm City Council’s tax revenue.

Total number of confirmed cases: 2,510

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 24th:

Stockholm health authorities warn that people from the Spånga and Kista suburbs are overrepresented among residents in the Swedish capital that have needed hospital care for the new coronavirus.

“We urge residents in these parts of the city to pay particular attention to washing their hands and sneezing into their elbow, and at the first symptoms of fever, dry cough or shortness of breath, isolate themselves and if in need of healthcare contact 1177 or in life-threatening conditions call 112,” said infectious disease doctor Per Follin.

More than 6,200 people have been tested in Stockholm for the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Of those, 959 had tested positive as of Tuesday 11.30am. Forty-eight people in Stockholm were being treated in intensive care on Tuesday and 236 people were being treated in hospital. Two patients were connected to an ECMO machine, an artificial lung which helps add oxygen to the patient’s blood.

Stockholm public transport company SL has been criticised for cutting services during this time, after pictures emerged of overcrowded buses during rush-hour. “It is not reasonable,” Public Health Agency director-general Johan Carlson told a press conference on Tuesday about the crowded transport.

“Drive as much as you can, as often as you can. This is not a recommendation, it’s an order,” Stockholm councillor Kristoffer Tamsons, with special responsibility for public transport, said after speaking with SL.

Sweden’s Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren urged Swedes to practice social distancing, and call friends and relatives rather than meet them in person if possible.

The advice was especially important for vulnerable groups, she said, but this was the first time it was extended to the general population by a government minister in Sweden. 

Although keeping one metre apart from other people is one of the strategies recommended by the World Health Organisation to limit the spread of the virus, there is currently no official recommendation to do this in Sweden, the Public Health Agency’s press office told The Local by email following the press conference. 

Swedes were also urged not to travel during the Easter break, but no formal ban is in place.

Sweden is to allow table service only at bars, restaurants, night clubs and cafés, under new restrictions expected to come into effect tomorrow. Venues with table seating are also told to leave enough space between tables. Any venue that does not comply with the new rules risks being shut down. Read more here.

Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT has started broadcasting its four o’clock news programme Rapport with subtitles in English and Arabic, to help spread information about the coronavirus to non-Swedish speakers. SVT is already providing its news in Finnish, Sami and sign language. You can watch Rapport with English subtitles here.

Thirty-three people have died so far after testing positive for the new coronavirus, including 15 in Stockholm. Of those, at least six were Somali-Swedes, a board member of an association for Somali-Swedish medical doctors in Sweden told public broadcaster SVT’s current affairs programme Agenda.

“When it spread to Sweden there was not that much information in Somali and many were living as normal,” Jihan Mohamed told Agenda. “Most of them had underlying health conditions. But one man in his 60s, who passed away (on Sunday), gave the impression of being well even if we don’t know his history of illnesses. A lot of people were shocked when they found out he had died.”

According to Mohamed, five of the patients lived in Järva, an area north of Stockholm that is often talked about as facing socio-economic challenges.

“I don’t know why Järva sticks out when it comes to COVID-19 deceased, but many live in cramped housing conditions. Several generations can live in the same apartment and that could be a factor. We also know that public health is generally worse in vulnerable areas such as Järva,” Mohamed told Agenda.

Information about the coronavirus is now available in various languages on the Public Health Agency’s website. The Association for Somali-Swedish doctors has also relased information.

There is also information in several languages on Krisinformation’s website, a website that publishes emergency information from Swedish authorities.

Total number of confirmed cases: 2,272

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 23rd:

Twenty-five people have died so far after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to new figures from the Swedish Public Health Agency. A total of 104 people have been treated or are being treated in intensive care (the figure includes all patients in intensive care since the start of the outbreak, so it includes people who may have either passed away or recovered and been discharged from hospital).

The intensive care patients include people aged 21-86, with a median age of 66. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a press conference that Sweden’s patients in intensive care are relatively young compared to many other countries (with people in their 50s being the biggest group), which he said reflects the fact that most of them so far can be linked to people who contracted the virus on ski trips in Italy.

The number of over-70s in intensive care is still comparatively low. Sweden’s strategy is currently focused on protecting the elderly and risk groups, with elderly people urged to limit direct contact with other people.

The increase in intensive care patients that had been expected before the weekend, especially in Stockholm, was not as sharp as expected, and Sweden’s curve is still relatively flat. However, this will likely change, noted Tegnell, and emphasised it is important to prepare for a large increase in cases.

Here’s more about what we know about Sweden’s coronavirus patients so far.

More than 18,000 workers have been given notice so far in March. That compares to around 3,300 in the same month last year, and most of the increase is unsurprisingly believed to be linked to the coronavirus.

Almost 14,000 were registered last week alone.

The figures come from Sweden’s Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) and refer to the first stage of the process of letting employees go in Sweden, when businesses have to notify the unions (varsel). It does not automatically mean that 18,000 people will become unemployed – they may in theory either find new jobs or the company may be able to use government support or find another way to avoid making staff cuts.

During the financial crisis in 2008, around six out of ten people who were given notice according to this system were permanently laid off six months later, and three out of ten became unemployed in the end.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency and regional authorities in Jämtland are set to meet on Monday to discuss whether or not more restrictions are needed to prevent the spread of infection in ski resorts.

The meeting comes after healthcare services in Åre warned that they would struggle to cope with the large increase in coronavirus cases that they believe would follow if the tens of thousands of tourists who normally spend their Easter break on the slopes in the small Jämtland town turn up.

Several ski resorts have decided to halt all après-ski (or after-ski, as it is more commonly known in Swedish) parties after reports emerged that many people were going against official advice to avoid all non-essential domestic travel and were still going on ski trips within Sweden. The slopes remain open for now, but a final decision is expected this afternoon after the meeting, report Swedish media.

Total number of confirmed cases: 2,016

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 22nd:

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has addressed the nation in a televised speech. There were no major policy announcements, but he urged everyone to step up and do their part to prevent the spread of the virus. Here’s our quick English translation of the speech, and here is the official Swedish transcript.

The Local’s journalists have also been tweeting about the speech:

21 deaths have so far been reported as a result of the coronavirus in Sweden, according to the latest update from the Swedish Public Health Agency.

The majority of patients in Sweden have had mild symptoms, but 72 people have been or are being treated in intensive care in hospitals around the country. Here’s what we know about them so far.

Total number of confirmed cases: 1,906

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 21st: 

20 deaths have now been reported as a result of the coronavirus in Sweden, according to the latest update from the Swedish Public Health Agency. 

And a total of 61 people have been or are being treated in intensive care in hospitals around the country, an increase from 50 on Friday.

Total number of cases: 1,746

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 20th:

Sweden’s state-run alcohol chain Systembolaget will change their opening hours in Stockholm, with stores only open from noon on weekdays, reports Mitt i Stockholm. The reason is a staff shortage as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Stores in shopping centres may have different opening hours.

The Swedish Trade Union Federation, an umbrella organisation for blue-collar unions in Sweden, and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise have agreed to postpone the collective bargaining season, when salary agreements across several industries are fleshed out, until the end of October.

This is because of the threat the coronavirus is posing to jobs and the economy, and is meant to help prevent mass unempoyment in Sweden. Both parties said they were completely in agreement.

“I don’t actually think we have ever agreed as much as we have this week. It somehow shows the strength of the Swedish model,” Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson, head of the trade unions, told the TT newswire. Asked what happens after October he said: “Hopefully we’ll then be enemies and fight like crazy about salaries.”

Public broadcaster SVT will start broadcasting programmes especially for children who have to stay at home due to the coronavirus, from Monday March 23rd. The show, Hemmahänget (The at-home hang) is aimed at providing children with activities, advice and security. It will be shown on SVT Barn every day between 3-4pm, and is aimed at children aged 7-12.

The children’s news programme Lilla Aktuellt – a child-friendly version of one of Sweden’s main current affairs programmes – is also adapting to the coronavirus, by giving daily updates and answering questions sent in by children.

Swedavia, the company which operates Sweden’s airports, has temporarily laid off 1,900 members of staff due to the huge reduction in flight traffic, and given notice that 800 workers may be permanently laid off. The company said that the number of passengers has already fallen by between 70 to 90 percent.

Volvo Cars halts production in Sweden, a move that affects around 25,000 employees, its CEO Håkan Samuelsson told Swedish radio programme Ekot. He said everyone working in production is being sent home, while people in office jobs will go down to 40 percent of their normal work hours. He insisted that letting employees go completely is not on the cards, telling Ekot “absolutely not” when asked.

Volvo’s factories will close on March 26th, until April 14th.

The Swedish government has previously introduced a series of crisis packages for affected businesses, including measures for short-term layoffs, whereby employers’ wage costs can be halved but the employee still receives more than 90 percent of their salary, with the state covering the difference.

Truckmaker Volvo AB also said it was putting all 20,000 of its Swedish staff on a temporary layoff programme, as it was preparing to shut down its production in Gothenburg.

Region Stockholm has launched a self-assessment test for the coronavirus online. You can access it here (in Swedish). This is to reduce the pressure on healthcare helpline 1177.

Stockholm public transport operator SL announced reduced timetables from Monday, March 23rd. The tunnelbana (subway) and pendeltåg (commuter train) will follow their ordinary timetables, but bus routes and tram lines will be reduced. Find more information here.

The reason is partly due to current and potential future absences among public transport workers, but also due to reduced demand now that everyone in the region has been advised to work from home if possible, and to ensure that public transport continues to operate for those key workers who do still need to travel.

Swedish universities are closing their doors to students as part of nationwide efforts to limit the spread of the virus, although education is continuing online and by distance learning. Here’s a look at the questions students in Sweden might have.

Domestic airline BRA has cancelled 12 of its 18 routes that are trafficked year round, with the changes taking effect from Monday, March 23rd. The affected routes are: Kalmar – Bromma, Växjö – Bromma, Ronneby – Bromma, Kristianstad – Bromma, Halmstad – Bromma, Trollhättan – Bromma, Örnsköldsvik – Bromma, Sundsvall – Bromma, Östersund – Malmö, Östersund – Gothenburg, Visby – Malmö, Visby – Gothenburg.

Sweden has no plans to fly home Swedish citizens or residents who have found themselves stranded abroad in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent flight cancellations and travel bans, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Swedish TV.

To people in that situation, she said: “Review your situation, is it safest to stay where you are? Download the Foreign Ministry’s app and keep yourself informed. You can add yourself to the Foreign Ministry’s Swedes Abroad list, then you’ll get information if there are any routes home.”

Total number of cases: 1623

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 19th:

Living far away from family in these troubling times forces us to face unique challenges. But you are not alone, writes The Local’s founder Paul Rapacioli in this article, which we hope can help bring you comfort.

What do we know about Sweden’s coronavirus patients? Eleven people have now passed away after testing positive for the virus, and around 40 have been treated in intensive care since the start of the outbreak. Sweden has tested more than 14,300 patients, and 1,423 have tested positive.

Parliament has voted to give the government the ability to close schools and preschools in the event of extraordinary circumstances. This law will come into effect on Friday, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that all schools will be closed then. Municipalities and school boards have already been given extra decision-making powers, including the ability to switch to distance learning.

The Public Health Agency says in its daily press briefing that these are three important things for members of the public to remember: stay at home if you feel at all unwell (even just a cough), work from home if you can, and don’t travel within Sweden unless it’s essential to do so. 

Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell says that there is a high level of community infection in an increasing number of places in Sweden at the moment, and advised against travel to the major cities. One reason this helps is because it reduces the burden on healthcare services if the spread of the infection moves at a different pace in different parts of the country, he explains, and travelling to or from the major cities poses a risk of spreading the virus further.

By following the measures, he emphasises that it will be possible to ‘flatten the curve’, in other words to ensure that the healthcare services aren’t overwhelmed by a drastic increase in cases within a short space of time.

Sweden has arranged a new deal regarding deliveries of protective face masks for healthcare works, Health Minister Lena Hallengren tells a press conference. By the end of this month, the first monthly delivery of 200,000 extra masks is expected, almost double the current level. The minister also asked any other companies that can help address the shortage of materials to contact the Civil Contingencies Agency.

The Public Health Agency has shared information about the coronavirus, and how you can protect yourself and others from infection, in several languages other than Swedish. You can find that information here.

Stockholm is preparing hospitals for a possible sharp rise in coronavirus cases. The capital city has been the centre of the epidemic in Sweden, and has begun cancelling routine planned operations and taking other measures in order to be able to take in many more patients with the virus.

This comes as the number of virus patients in need of intensive care is increasing.

Afghan authorities say the country will no longer accept people who have been deported from Sweden or had their asylum applications rejected.

“The reduced number of flights from Sweden and the fact that a large number of countries in the rest of the world are reintroducing border controls and quarantine rules also make it more difficult to carry out enforcement,” says the Swedish Migration Agency.

Total number of cases: 1423

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 18th:

Swedish health authorities estimate that the number of coronavirus cases will rise in the near future. “We are going to see more cases in the coming weeks, more cases in intensive care and more deaths. We must be prepared for that. The main thing now is to flatten the curve as much as possible,” Public Health Agency epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters at the agency’s daily press conference.

Although most people get only mild symptoms, health authorities are concerned that if too many need hospital care at the same time, it will place immense pressure on already strained hospitals. So Sweden’s strategy is based on trying to slow down the infection rate as much as possible.

Swedes, like people in many other countries, have been stockpiling toilet paper, leaving many supermarket shelves empty. But there is no risk of the country running out of toilet paper, The Local has been told.

King Carl XVI Gustaf spoke about the coronavirus outbreak at an extraordinary meeting with ministers of a slimmed-down (in order to avoid having too many people in the room at once) Swedish cabinet. He said:

“The coronavirus has put our country in a difficult situation. Many are worried: for their health, for their relatives, for their livelihood. We are in a situation that requires taking responsibility for oneself and others. But difficult situations such as this, also offer an opportunity, the opportunity to bring our the best in ourselves. As a country, and as fellow human beings,” he said, thanking people in Sweden.

“We all have our own responsibility to avoid contributing to the spread of infection or to avoid becoming infected ourselves,” he added. “We need to listen to the advice of our expert authorities. Avoid meetings that may have been scheduled. This applies in particular to the elderly and to other people who, for various reasons, are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they are infected.”

You can read the King’s full speech in Swedish here.

Swedish truck maker Scania is halting production at most of its European production plants on Wednesday next week, after major disruptions to its supplier and logistics chain. Service workshops and parts centre are to remain open, and other units are scheduled to resume operation after two weeks.

The move affects staff in Sweden, the Netherlands and France. Scania said it was “in close dialogue with the union representatives in order to jointly address the situation”.

Scania president and CEO Henrik Henriksson said in a statement: “The management and employee representatives both highly appreciate the state support measures that are now being made available in the countries where our staff now temporarily will lack work.”

Sweden confirmed two new deaths linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday. The first patient was described as elderly with several underlying health conditions by regional health authorities in Södermanland. The second, the first fatality in the Skåne region, was described as a woman in her 80s. She also had underlying health conditions and was seriously ill when she arrived at hospital, where she tested positive.

“We know that the elderly and especially elderly people with other underlying illnesses get the most seriously ill from COVID-19. This is a sad reminder of how important it is that we protect these groups from infection,” Region Skåne infectious disease doctor Eva Melander said in a statement.

Total number of confirmed cases: 1297

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 17th:

Sweden halts international travel into the country following an EU decision. The entry ban comes into effect on March 19th and will be in force for 30 days. It can be extended, but the Swedish government said in a statement that “it is an exceptional measure, which should not last longer than needed”.

Swedish citizens and residents will still be able to return to Sweden, according to the decision. The entry ban will not apply to people who can demonstrate a particularly important reason to travel to Sweden, for example “diplomats, people in need of international protection and people who are to perform necessary functions in Sweden, such as healthcare staff and people transporting goods to Sweden”.

Nor will the decision, which is based on an EU agreement, apply to EU or EEA citizens.

More regions in Sweden outside of the big cities are starting to see signs of community infection, said the Public Health Agency’s epidemiologist Anders Tegnell in the authority’s daily update. But the numbers of confirmed cases is “just the tip of the iceberg” in Sweden and the rest of the world, he added.

The vast majority of infected patients in Sweden have had only mild symptoms, but 12 people in total have been treated in intensive care. Seven patients have died after testing positive for the virus, all of whom are described as elderly, and Tegnell reiterated how important it is that everyone helps protect vulnerable groups. “This means everything for how this epidemic develops. If we can keep this group healthy for as long as possible it will make a huge difference for the strain on Swedish society and healthcare,” he said.

Several community initiatives have been launched across Sweden to help risk groups with for example their food shopping, so that they are able to limit their direct contact with other people and stay at home. The Local is listing some of them in this article, but please help us keep adding to the list.

Sweden is recommending all senior high schools (gymnasie level, children aged over 16) to close, starting tomorrow, and introduce distance learning so that students can keep studying. The decision also applies to universities and municipal adult education (komvux).

Schools for younger children are not closing at this stage, but Sweden is preparing to make such a decision if necessary, said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

Swedish rail operator SJ’s trains will run at reduced capacity from today. Most routes will see a reduction of 25 percent, reports Swedish news agency TT, with traffic on the main routes dropping from approximately one train an hour or more to every other hour or once an hour in the morning and afternoon.

SJ said affected passengers would get their money back or be offered to change their departure.

The decision applies until the end of the month for now. It was made because of several staff members having to stay at home, either because they are self-quarantining, or because they are following Swedish authorities’ recommendations to stay at home even if you have only very mild symptoms of illness. Some are also staying at home because their children’s preschools or schools have been closed over the virus.

Stockholm’s public transport operator SL has also introduced measures aimed at reducing the spread of infection.

Passengers have been advised to get on buses at the back door (usually reserved for passengers getting off, and people with pushchairs) to avoid close contact with the driver, and to spread out through the vehicle. The company also said it would “intensify” cleaning procedures, and urged people who are sick not to use public transport.

Badly-affected airlines will receive state support in order to get through the economic problems caused by the outbreak. In a deal between the Danish and Swedish governments, SAS has been guaranteed three billion kronor in state support.

Hospitals are preparing to cope with an anticipated higher demand for intensive care places and protective equipment. In Stockholm, the region plans to increase its 90 intensive care spaces by 50 percent.

“At the moment we have no problem dealing with the patients who need intensive care due to the coronavirus as well as our other patients. How long this lasts depends on how quickly the numbers increase,” Elda Sparrelid, who is a head doctor in the Stockholm region, told the TT newswire.

“We can increase the number of intensive care spaces by 50 percent – we have given that as an assignment to all hospitals – and then we can successively increase the capacity to around twice as much as the current capacity.” 

Sweden confirms its eighth death linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday. The patient was described by regional health authorities in Södermanland as elderly and with underlying health conditions.

Total number of confirmed cases: 1167

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 16th:

The Swedish parliament will cut the number of members present in the chamber from 349 to only 55. The decision has been agreed to by all parties, and means that from March 18th until the end of the month the parties will be represented by: 16 Social Democrat MPs, 11 Moderate MPs, 10 Sweden Democrat MPs, five Centre Party MPs, four Left Party MPs and three each for the Christian Democrats, Liberals and Greens.

The move is meant to ensure that parliament is able to continue to operate even if a large number of MPs were to fall ill. The decision currently applies until March 30th but can be extended. MPs not present during votes will still be working, but will perform their duties in other ways, said the speaker of parliament.

Stockholmers in particular are urged to work from home if they can, according to new guidelines from Sweden’s Public Health Agency. This is because there is now a so-called community infection in Sweden (when the virus is spreading inside the country, rather than only linked to international travel), in particular in the Stockholm area.

“We’re now in a situation where (working from home) can make a difference, especially in the Stockholm region,” Public Health Agency epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a press conference.

Three elderly patients have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The patients passed away at Södersjukhuset, Danderyd Hospital and the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, said Stockholm health authorities. A fourth fatality, also an elderly patient with underlying health condition, was reported by the Sörmland region south of Stockholm on Monday afternoon.

“Our thoughts are with their loved ones. We know from international experience that the elderly and in particular elderly people with other underlying health conditions suffer the most serious consequences of COVID-19. These patients, too, follow that pattern,” said infectious disease doctor Per Follin.

This brings Sweden’s total number of fatalities to six, including five in Stockholm and one in Västa Götaland.

Swedish postal service Postnord warns that it will have to halt deliveries to and from many countries as a result of reduced transport capacity due to cancelled flights. It says it can only accept deliveries to EU countries, Australia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Canada, Liechtenstein, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, South Korea, United States and Åland, but that it make take longer than usual.

The Swedish government announces plans for what could amount to a 300 billion kronor ($31 billion) crisis package to help struggling businesses in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. This includes proposals for:

  • Short-term layoffs, where employers’ wage costs could be halved but the employee would still receive more than 90 percent of their salary, and the state would step in to cover the difference.
  • The central government would take over sick pay responsibility in April and May.
  • Making it possible for companies to defer paying in employers’ social security contributions, preliminary tax on salaries and value-added tax that are reported monthly or quarterly.

The proposals, which come in addition to other previously announced measures such as scrapping the first day of unpaid sick leave (karensdag), are based on a deal between the ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition and the Centre and Liberal parties, and will be presented to parliament on March 19th.

Total confirmed cases: 1,059

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 15th:

A third person dies in Sweden from the coronavirus. The elderly patient arrived at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital for an emergency that did not require intensive care. While the patient was being treated, they tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of four patients were in intensive care in Stockholm on Sunday.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven tells a press conference there are no imminent plans to close Sweden’s borders.

Sweden’s foreign ministry the previous day urged against non-essential travel to anywhere in the world, but Sweden’s Public Health Agency clarifies that the move has less to do with the risk of spreading infection and more to do with the risk of ending up in a situation where it is impossible or harder to get home.

Scandinavian Airlines announce plans to temporarily lay off up to 10,000 staff.

Total confirmed cases: 992 (updated at 2pm)

March 14th:

A second person dies in Sweden from the coronavirus. The 85 year-old woman died at Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg. The woman had been cared for in intensive care for some time and also had other diseases.

Denmark closes its borders to halt the spread of the coronavirus. People who live and work in Denmark will still be allowed in, including cross-border workers based in Sweden, but people based in Sweden will no longer be able to use Copenhagen Airport (other than for inbound flights in order to return to Sweden).

Several private initiatives are under way to help people who have to self-isolate at home with their food shop. Examples include the social media hashtag #DinGranneHär (#YourNeighbourHere).

Total cases: 942 (updated at 2pm)

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 13th:

Many hospitals have introduced bans on external visitors, including all those in Skåne and Kalmar regions, and the Karolinska University hospital in Stockholm.

The 1177 healthcare helpline introduces a separate line for those with symptoms of the coronavirus, after receiving a hugely increased number of calls.

The Stockholm stock exchange’s OMXS index recovers 2.6 percent in early morning trading, after plummeting 11.1 percent on Thursday – a historically sharp fall in line with other European markets.

The government appoints a coronavirus coordinator: Anders Ferbe will be in charge of managing tasks related to the impact of the virus on the economy.

The Swedish Central Bank, the Riksbank, says it will lend 500 billion kronor to struggling companies during the coronavirus crisis. “The aim is to maintain the supply of credit to Swedish companies,” says the bank.

Airlines SAS and Norwegian cancel flights between Scandinavia and the US in the wake of Donald Trump’s travel ban, with Norwegian temporarily laying off half its staff.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven urges Swedes to avoid international travel amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Sweden cancels its upcoming scholastic aptitude test (högskoleprovet) which would have seen 70,000 people sit the test in the hope of using it to get into university. Sweden’s minister for higher education and research, Matilda Ernkrans, says the authorities are looking at how to handle autumn admissions.

Total cases: 775 (updated at 2pm)

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 12th:

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Gotland means that the virus has now spread to all of Sweden’s regions.

Nordic gym chain SATS announces it is closing all its clubs as a precautionary measure, effective from noon on March 12th and initially two weeks onwards. Membership will be put on hold, writes SATS.

In the evening, around 20 prisoners in Norrtälje start a riot, linked to new restrictions introduced because of the coronavirus and including limits on visitors.

Stockholm health authorities announce that only elderly people and patients in hospital will be tested for the coronavirus from now on. This is part of a new national strategy aimed at using resources in the most effective way. Other people who experience symptoms are instead directed to national health line 1177 and are urged to stay at home, not go to work, and limit social contact. 

US President Donald Trump announces a travel ban from European countries in the Schengen area, which does not include the UK or Ireland, to take effect 11.59pm on March 13th.

Sweden’s education minister meets school and university bosses to discuss further measures. Denmark and Norway are both closing schools temporarily, but Sweden’s Public Health Agency has so far warned that such a decision would have consequences for parents working in essential jobs such as healthcare. In the evening, the education minister says there will be no decision yet to close schools at a national level, but heads of schools will be given increased decision-making ability to choose how they address the spread of the virus, for example by moving to online classes or changing the length and timing of the school year.

The Public Health Agency updates its guidelines to urge anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus or a cold (for example a fever and cough), regardless of whether or not you have been travelling, to stay at home and limit social contact until you have been symptom-free for at least two days.

Total cases: 620 (updated 3.40pm)

March 11th:

The first fatality linked to the coronavirus in Sweden (and the Nordics) is confirmed. The patient was elderly with underlying health conditions and dies at a hospital in southern Stockholm. Doctors say they were unable to trace the patient’s infection to overseas travel.

Sweden’s government moves to temporarily scrap the first unpaid day of sick leave, meaning that people who take leave from work due to sickness will receive sick pay from the moment their absence begins. The decision comes into effect immediately and is set to last for a month and a half.

The government also says it will follow a request from the Public Health Agency to ban all public events for over 500 people.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry advises against non-essential travel to the Austrian state of Tyrol, while US President Donald Trump announces a travel ban to the US from all countries in the Schengen area, which includes Sweden.

Blekinge and Dalarna report their first cases of the coronavirus, while further cases are confirmed in several other regions, most in Västra Götaland (37), Skåne (35) and Stockholm (26).

Police stop carrying out routine breathalyser tests for drink-driving, but will still test those they suspect are intoxicated, although police officers who belong to at-risk groups will not carry out any tests.

Total cases: 497

March 10th:

Swedish health authorities upgrade the risk of the virus spreading in Sweden to “very high”, the highest possible level on a five-point scale. This is due to signs of community spread in the Stockholm and Västra Götaland regions.

The Public Health Agency advises members of the public to avoid non-essential visits to hospitals and care homes, and reiterates the importance of people who work with vulnerable groups staying away from work if they have any symptoms such as a cough or fever.

Sweden’s foreign ministry extends its travel recommendations to advise against all non-essential travel to all of Italy, the European country worst hit by the coronavirus.

Sweden’s first two instances of coronavirus patients needing intensive care are reported.

New cases are confirmed in Skåne (three), Halland (four), Örebro (one), Region Stockholm (60), Sörmland (one), Jämtland-Härjedalen (one) and Västra Götaland (15).

Total cases: 345

March 9th:

Five regions report their first cases: Halland (five), Norrbotten (one), Västerbotten (five), Sörmland (one) and Östergötland (one), all linked to northern Italy.

In Stockholm, the first case of a coronavirus patient with no known links to foreign travel or a previously confirmed case – a potential community infection – is reported at a major hospital. 

Further cases are confirmed in Region Jönköping (two), Region Värmland (one), Västra Götaland (seven), Region Uppsala (three), Region Stockholm (32), making a total of 57 new confirmed cases in one day.

Total cases: 261

March 8th: 

42 more cases are confirmed: one in Region Uppsala, five in Skåne, 12 in Västra Götaland, three in Region Örebro, seven in Region Värmland, and 14 in Region Stockholm.

The cases confirmed include one where the patient contracted the virus in the USA.

Total cases: 203


Representatives from Sweden’s Public Health Agency, National Board of Health and Welfare, Karolinska Institute and Civil Contingencies Agency at a press conference. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

March 7th:

Sweden confirms 24 new cases: three in Skåne and 21 in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 161

March 6th:

The Foreign Ministry advises against all non-essential travel to northern Italy (the regions Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Trentino-Alto Adige, Aosta Valley, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Marche and Tuscany) as well as to the town Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea until further notice.

A further 43 cases are confirmed: two in Västra Götaland, five in Region Skåne, one in Region Uppsala, eight in Region Värmland, five in Region Jönköping, one in Region Gävleborg and 21 in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 137

March 5th:

A further 42 coronavirus cases are confirmed: one in Västra Götaland, seven in Skåne, three in Region Värmland, two in Region Uppsala, one in Region Gävleborg (the first case in the region) and the remainder in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 94

March 4th:

The Public Health Agency announces that it will begin testing more people for the virus, including those who are showing symptoms after traveling abroad or who have been in close contact with confirmed cases.

22 new cases are discovered, 16 of them in Stockholm, two in Västra Götaland, one in Skåne, two in Region Värmland and one in Region Örebro. One of the Västra Götaland cases was contracted in Iran, while the others were all linked to travel to northern Italy.

Total cases: 52


Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

March 3rd:

The number of cases doubles from 15 to 30, including the first case in Skåne, one new case in Region Jönköping, three new cases in Västra Götaland, all of which were linked to travel in northern Italy. Ten new cases also confirmed in Region Stockholm. 

Jönköping’s health authorities tell The Local that the first patient who contracted the virus in January is fully recovered.

Total cases: 30

March 2nd:

Swedish health authorities upgrade the risk of the virus spreading in Sweden from “low” to “moderate”, which is the middle level on a five-point scale.

The Foreign Ministry advises against all travel to all of Iran, and Sweden becomes the first country in the world to suspend Iranian airline Iran Air’s permit in Sweden, in order to halt all direct flights from Iran.

Another case of the coronavirus is confirmed in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 15

March 1st:

One more case is confirmed in Västra Götaland, linked to travel in northern Italy.

Total cases: 14

UPDATE: What you need to know about the coronavirus in Sweden (paywall-free)


A healthcare worker in protective clothes at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

February 29th:

Two more cases confirmed: One in Västra Götaland (linked to travel to Iran) and one in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 13

February 28th:

Four more cases are confirmed: two in Stockholm region, one in Uppsala (contracted in Iran) and one in Jönköping (contracted in Italy).

Total cases: 11

February 27th:

Five more cases confirmed: three in Västra Götaland (two linked to the previous case and one linked to travel to northern Italy) one in Region Uppsala (a patient who had recently travelled to Germany), and one in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 7

February 26th:

A second case of coronavirus is confirmed in Gothenburg, Västra Götaland. The patient had recently travelled to northern Italy. 


SAS airline halted flights to China, and later extended this to northern Italy. Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten/NTB Scanpix/TT

February 25th:

The risk of the virus spreading in Sweden is upgraded from “very low” to “low” by the Public Health Agency.

February 2nd:

Eleven Swedish citizens are flown home from China on an evacuation flight from Wuhan.

January 31st:

Sweden’s first case of coronavirus is confirmed in Jönköping, in a patient who had recently travelled from China.

January 30th:

Scandinavian airline SAS cancels flights to and from mainland China.

***

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Editor, The Local Swede

Member comments

  1. All news keeps saying the main problem with people dying in Sweden is because of the fail in elderly places. If that’s the truth, why so many people are still dying? Did they take action to protect these places? Are they going to compensate the families for this big mistake?

  2. Extremely sad that a Baby is now infected in sweden, the same has been in multiple countries and swedish authorities are taking pride in keeping the schools and pre school open? if they dont have any brains, atleast have some empathy towards lives of kids

  3. Sweden is playing a very dangerous game. To limit testing ONLY to “at risk patients” (elderly) and those who are already very sick but not to test those with symptoms even when there is good reason to suspect contact with infected persons is frankly insane. It means the numbers reported now are effectively those already in critical care plus a % of the figures left over from when the testing was actually taking place.

    Couple this with Swedens limited critical care resources (half the EU average 1/3 those available in Italy) and the relaxed messaging from official sources and you have a recipe for unmonitored and unrestricted community spread which suddenly spikes into enough acute cases to quickly overwhelm those limited resources.
    Right now Sweden is Wuhan in December 2019 or Italy/Iran just before their spikes of acute cases hit.

  4. I’m a little surprised you are just now restricting travel as the USA did that about a week ago. I’m in the state of Illinois (USA), with a population of about 12 million people and we have 160 confirmed cases and 1 death (testing is still suspect here), but there are 22 people in a nursing home recently infected so that’s probably going to skyrocket now. We now have drive thru testing stations, course you have to give all your personal information to google and who knows what they are going to do with it.

  5. WHO are now stressing the importance of blanket testing. They need to know where this virus is at all times. Multiply the current figure of 1121 infected by 10 to get a closer figure to reality… there’s thousands of people infected who can’t get tested because they do not qualify. It’s a disgrace! What’s more, I keep hearing people in the news say things like “we are several weeks behind” another country’s epidemic… but we are NOT using the time to be proactive. I am concluding that Sweden does not have enough test kits to go around – and that’s the true reason why we are not blanket testing like in South Korea.

  6. very irresponsible approach, restricting testing the government will not have reliable statistic to do any kind of forecast any more…

  7. This system is utterly insane and anti-humanism. What they want to safeguard is profit-making and NOT the ordinary lives. What they care is economic loss and not the loss of ordinary lives. The Swedish Central Bank pours down 500 billion kronor to save big companies from profit loss, instead of investing more in the healthcare system which is already closer to collapsing.

  8. It is a very dangerous game they are playing, restricting testing in this way. To compare, Italy also failed on blanket testing, and their death rate currently stands at 6.7%. South Korea on the other hand carried out (and still does) very aggressive blanket testing – even having the infamous ‘drive thru’ test station. Their death rate currently stands at 0.9%. Italy has a population of around 60.5 million. South Korea has a population of about 52 million. So from a statistics perspective, when looking at the efficacy of blanket testing as opposed to not, this is very telling indeed.

  9. I think back to late January when – directed by my mother – we went around many pharmacies trying to buy masks of which they were entirely sold out. If there is a shortage of tests, masks anything, we should be informed. It feels like Europe is just kind of throwin6their hands in the air and saying it’s going to get so much worse deal with it. Not at all like China’s response. That country is doing so well that they are finding it difficult to find enough sick participants for their studies.

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